Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger hopes to ease Jack Wilshere back into the squad for the Capital One Cup tie at Reading later this month but believes it was 'a bit premature' to suggest he could play for England Under-21s at the 2013 European Championship.
The England international, 20, has been out for more than a year with niggling ankle and knee injuries, but came through another run-out in midweek as his rehabilitation steps up a gear.
Wilshere is next set to feature in Arsenal's under-21 side at Everton, and if all goes well he will then be included for the trip to Reading on October 30 - which precedes a Barclays Premier League game at Manchester United.
England Under-21 coach Stuart Pearce would like to take Wilshere to Israel next summer for some valuable tournament experience, having seen his plans to include the player for the last European Championship shelved because of fears over burn-out.
Wenger, though, insisted the midfielder must take things one step at a time.
"I believe at the moment that is a bit premature. Let's wait until Jack comes back. He has not played in the first team for 14 months," said Wenger. "Do you know what that is like, 14 months out of competition? Jack works very hard, he is doing well, but let's not go too far."
Wenger added: "There are two aspects. One is the apprehension to go into challenges when you have too many injuries, on that front we are at 100 per cent. We even have to calm him down. He goes for every challenge and has no apprehension.
"Then you have the physical front - he is okay there, then you have the match fitness which is 80 per cent. He needs one more game, maybe Monday night with the reserves, then he should be back."
While Wilshere is, like Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, still eligible for the under-21s, Wenger believes once a player has progressed through into the senior national team they should not drop down again.
"I never believe that a player, once he has gone up to the top team, plays well with the under-21s. It does not exist - I have not got one example," he said. "That is why I believe England has to make a decision - is Jack in the first team and not in the under-21s?"