Christian Eriksen played an hour in Brentford’s behind-closed-doors friendly against Southend on Monday as he steps up plans to make his Bees debut.
The midfielder was part of a Bees XI who played the Shrimpers in what was the first of at least two warm-up matches for the Denmark international.
Saturday’s clash away at Arsenal may come too soon for Eriksen to make his sensational return to football following last year’s cardiac arrest, although some involvement at the Emirates has not yet been ruled out.
However, the following home game against Newcastle looks increasingly realistic as the occasion for Eriksen to make his comeback, so a second behind-closed-doors game is being considered in the build-up to that fixture next week.
Eriksen told Sky Sports News on Friday his debut “won’t be far off” after a positive first week of training with his new team-mates, having signed a six-month contract in January.
The 29-year-old has been increasing the intensity of his training each day and been involved in tactical work despite not being part of the games against Manchester City and Crystal Palace.
In an exclusive, wide-ranging interview, Eriksen insisted his heart will be the safest on the pitch when he finally returns, because he has an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) fitted, which responds to life-threatening rhythms and can shock to reset the heart-rate and prevent sudden cardiac arrest.
He said: “I’m taking it one day at a time and seeing how I feel. Every day it gets easier and easier to join in with the level of intensity, running-wise and technical-wise.
“[My debut] it won’t be far off. Let’s see what happens.
“With this [device], you are more safe than anyone else. It was pretty early in the hospital I was told that, with an ICD there are no limits.
“My first target is to get back to full fitness, be able to play a Premier League game, and play as many minutes as possible to show and prove I can still play football in a good way. Then I want to help Brentford stay in the league.”