Tom Croft is poised to give Leicester Tigers a massive boost ahead of their key Round 2 Sunday showdowns at the Ospreys on 13 January and home to Toulouse seven days later.
The England flanker could make his first appearance for eight months before the end of the year and be available for the group matches that will settle prestigious quarter-final qualification.
It is a three-horse race with former double champions Leicester topping the group on 14 points with four-times champions Toulouse just a point behind and the Ospreys on nine points
Croft, 27, has not played since undergoing surgery after damaging his neck during the Premiership clash with Harlequins in April but is back in training and Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill says he could return later this month.
"Tom is probably a week away and that is good news for us," said Cockerill.
"It will be a slow integration and we will have to look after him. He hasn't played for eight months and we are conscious of that. His injury was a serious one and it's about him being confident when he comes back.
"Tom has seen the specialist and he was pretty happy with what he saw. We will get him back playing but we will just have to see because he hasn't played for so long. I don't normally get good news like that from physios!
"Tom has put weight on and is looking in good shape. We feel that extra bulk will make him more robust. He actually looks like a rugby player now and it's just the healing of the bones that has to be right."
ERC can confirm that the Federation Française de Rugby (FFR) has withdrawn its application to host the 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the availability of the Stade de France.
Following an investigation by ERC Disciplinary Officer, Roger O'Connor, into the registration of the London Welsh player, Tyson Keats, for the 2012/13 Amlin Challenge Cup, a misconduct complaint has been made against London Welsh.
Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon) has been named ERC European Player of the Year 2013. The prestigious award crowns an outstanding season for the out-half who led the French club to a dramatic Heineken Cup final victory over ASM Clermont Auvergne at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.