Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy expects Thursday's NRL grand final rematch with Canterbury to feature the return of troubled Dally M medal winner Ben Barba.
Barba, who was suspended indefinitely by the Bulldogs last month to deal with his off-field issues, was last week discharged from a private treatment facility.
He returned to training with the club on Sunday and it was reported Barba's likely comeback date would be the round-four Good Friday clash with South Sunday.
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler emphatically rejected suggestions Barba could return by round three following Thursday night's victory over Parramatta.
But despite fears over the fullback's conditioning, Bellamy said the reigning premiers would tailor their preparations around the belief they'll need to shut down Barba.
"I'm not quite sure whether Ben's going to play or not but we'll certainly be preparing as though he is," Bellamy told ABC Grandstand on Sunday.
"Obviously everyone tells me he's back in training now with the Bulldogs so, like I say, we'll be preparing as if he's playing."
After toppling the Eels, Hasler said he was in no rush to push Barba back in first grade.
"Ben has done extremely well in showing great conviction to do what he did and the great thing about it now is he has a fantastic safety net around him," Hasler said.
"There's no need to rush Ben back. I don't know when he'll play but he will play at some stage."