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Everton manager Roberto Martinez is hopeful Leighton Baines could be fit to face Sunderland on December 26 after making a rapid recovery from a foot injury.
The England international has not played for the high-flying Toffees since he fractured a toe during the Merseyside derby with Liverpool at the end of November.
The injury was expected to keep the 29-year-old out of action for around six weeks but he has progressed well during his rehabilitation and is on course to play some part in the festive fixtures.
This weekend’s game with Swansea City comes just too soon for Baines but Martinez is confident he will be back in the squad by the time Sunderland visit Goodison Park on Thursday.
“He is not far away,” Martinez said. “He trained at the beginning of the week and we are going to assess how he responds to it. “I expect Leighton to be available probably, if it is not this weekend, then the week after.
“It is just measuring well that we don’t rush him back too early. But I would say he is not too far away, which is a beautiful Christmas present as you can imagine.
“If he has no reaction, he will be available to play on Boxing Day (December 26) or possibly even earlier. But it just depends on how the next two days show up in his foot.”
The good news on Baines’ injury is somewhat tapered by an update on the fitness of Gerard Deulofeu.
The 19-year-old on-loan winger suffered a hamstring injury against Fulham last weekend and following further tests his parent club Barcelona say Deulofeu will be on the sidelines for the next two months.