A recurring back problem has limited the Ireland lock to just two games this season but he will play for Munster A against Leinster A on Tuesday, a return to action after surgery that is ahead of schedule.
Munster hope their 33 year-old former skipper will show enough form over the next four weeks to enable him to play in their vital Heineken Cup quarter-final against No 1 seeds Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop on 7 April.
O'Connell missed Ireland's summer tour to New Zealand last year with knee problems and only played two European games for Munster in the first half of this season. His last game for Ireland was in the 2012 RBS 6 Nations.
"You'd imagine the Lions squad will be picked on the basis of the Six Nations so it's going to be very difficult to make it on that trip," O'Connell said in January before undergoing surgery.
"I'd love to get back playing in April and see what happens. I'd love to get on some tour during the summer be it with Ireland or the Lions."