Darren Bent may be given an indication about his Aston Villa future in the next five days - as Paul Lambert prepares for two potentially pivotal matches against fellow relegation rivals.
• Blog: Four games, four wins...
Despite being in the Premier League bottom three, Lambert is considering omitting Bent from his squad for the second game in succession for Tuesday evening's meeting with Reading, ahead of Saturday's crucial fixture against Queens Park Rangers.
The £18 million record signing failed to make the bench for Saturday's goalless draw with Arsenal, when Jordan Bowery, a £600,000 signing from Chesterfield, was preferred ahead of him.
Bent has made it clear he will not seek a move in January while Lambert has said that everything is "fine" between the pair. Liverpool are reported to be ready to offer Bent an escape route from Villa Park with a loan offer in the New Year.
Fulham manager Martin Jol has been a long-term admirer of Bent and may revive his interest, while QPR are said to be keen on signing a striker in January, with Andrew Johnson and Bobby Zamora recovering from long-term injuries.
Lambert's decision for the match versus Arsenal has been scrutinised, with Villa in the bottom three and having scored only ten Premier League goals. Bent, last season's top scorer, has not started a game for over a month.
Alan Hutton, meanwhile, has voiced his criticism of Lambert's methods and was pleased to join Nottingham Forest on loan in the Championship after being forced to train with Villa's development squad. He said: "I don't see any way back for me at Villa.
"I was told at the beginning of the season I wouldn't be playing. It's been very frustrating. I want to play and through different circumstances I've not. What's been said has done for me there." All the signals appear to be pointing that Bent is heading in a similar direction."