MANCHESTER, England, Feb 27 (Reuters) Newcastle United striker Michael Owen says he could be back from injury in time to face Chelsea in next month's FA Cup quarter-final.
Owen broke a bone in his foot in a collision with England Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper and England team mate Paul Robinson on December 31 and was expected to make his return in April.
But the England forward told Reuters Television today that he might yet make their FA Cup tie with Premier League champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on March 22.
''About 12-14 weeks is probably the norm, so I've set my sights on the start of April,'' he told RTV after the launch of England's new away kit.
''Now if I can shave a few days, a week off that, I know there's a small matter of the FA Cup against Chelsea on March 22nd. If it's healing really well - maybe that comes into contention.'' Owen's return for such a big fixture would be a huge boost for his side, whose results have improved since caretaker Glenn Roeder took over from Graeme Souness in February.
Owen, who will miss England's World Cup warm-up against Uruguay on Wednesday, made it clear he was desperate to return for Newcastle, who paid Real Madrid 16 million pounds (27.83 million dollars) for his services in a late August deal.
''A freak injury like this is really frustrating for myself and for my club...apart from Wednesday I won't have missed any England games so the main feeling I have is sorrow for the club.
''Obviously they spent a lot of money for me and I haven't been able to repay them enough. In the 10 games I have played I've managed to score a few goals (seven) and do quite well -- that's the only saving grace.
''I'm just itching to get back and pull on a club shirt to repay them. And then the World Cup is a fantastic bonus that everyone is looking forward to.'' FITNESS TEST Though he is guaranteed an England start in Germany if he is ready, Owen knows he will have to prove his fitness in the latter stages of the league season to secure a place in Eriksson's squad.
''That is still my main concern, because if I don't get back and play well for Newcastle, then the World Cup is irrelevant,'' he said.
''My main aim is to get back as quickly and safely as possible and to play well for my club and then, with the World Cup, you can't help but get excited about that.'' Looking ahead to the finals, Owen believes England should make the most of their 3-2 friendly win over old enemies and World Cup hopefuls Argentina last November in Geneva.
Owen, whose two late goals turned the match around, said: ''We've got to make it count. In our own minds, everyone's got to think 'We've beaten Argentina, one of the favourites for the tournament'.
''We've got to turn it into a positive and make sure we keep the snowball effect.'' REUTERS DH KN2202