Michael Owen's bid to prove his fitness ahead of the World Cup will go down to the wire after it was revealed he will play only one more game this term.
Owen is crucial to Sven-Goran Eriksson's England plans
The Newcastle star, 26, has not played for four months after breaking his foot against Tottenham on New Year's Eve.
He had been pencilled in for a return at Birmingham this weekend, but Magpies boss Glenn Roeder said: "Even with Alan Shearer out, we won't rush him.
"The most we can hope for is for him to return for the last game this season."
The £17m summer signing from Real Madrid returned to light training last month as he stepped up his rehabilitation.
And Roeder hopes he will be given the go-ahead to resume full training from next week, meaning he could return against Chelsea on the last day of the campaign.
Roeder said: "At the moment, Michael has done everything our medical team and fitness coach Paul Winsper have asked of him in the past couple of weeks.
"He is now running in a straight line and striking the ball with pace and on Friday we are hoping to hear from his surgeon that he can start twisting and turning again.
"That would mean he could train properly with the first team again from the start of next week and, by the end of it, be close to being fit."
Even a potentially career-ending injury to Shearer will not prompt Roeder to push Owen back into action.
If Owen does return against Chelsea, he will have just two more games - England's friendlies against Hungary and Jamaica on 30 May and 3 June - to get match-fit ahead of the start of the World Cup.
England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson must name his squad by 15 May, while his team's World Cup campaign begins against Paraguay on 10 June.