Reading FC have been handed a boost ahead of a very busy second half of the season as they prepare to welcome back star striker Lucas Joao.

The Portuguese forward has played just twice this season due to a hip injury but manager Veljko Paunovic said on Thursday that Reading expect Joao to return at some point in January.

"He (Lucas) is looking good but obviously his fitness is now something we have to work on," Paunovic said.

"He is one of those who are in the stage where at some point in January they will come back. They need to get in shape so they can perform and respond to the responsibilities we all will carry. This is the situation we are in with Lucas and a few more. That’s why I was saying that January will be challenging but if we do a good job in January then February will look very good.

"For Lucas, he’s going to increase the competition of the team, he’s going to increase the possibilities of the team scoring goals and winning games."

As well as Joao, Reading could be set to get a few more important players back in the coming weeks with Andy Rinomhota and Ovie Ejaria part of the group expected to return this month.

Reading Chronicle: Reading midfielder Ovie Ejaria could be back in action soon. Image by: JasonPIXReading midfielder Ovie Ejaria could be back in action soon. Image by: JasonPIX

On Rinomhota Paunovic said: "He’s one of those guys I was just mentioning, four or five players that we are expecting to be back this month."

Meanwhile, Ejaria, who has been absent since suffering a soft-tissue injury prior to the November victory at Swansea is not quite ready just yet.

"He’s been still dealing with that injury and he wasn’t ready for the match we have at this point. He’s not ready yet. He looks good for January definitely."

Tyrell Ashcroft, who had to be substituted at half-time in Monday's 2-2 draw with Derby is in the EFL's concussion protocols but Paunovic said he doesn't expect him to be out of action "longer than a week".

The Serbian also confirmed that 24-year old left back Brandon Mason is on trial at Bearwood with the club assessing whether to offer the former Coventry defender a contract.