Mikel Arteta could be back to aid Everton's increasingly tense campaign to cling on to a Uefa Cup qualification place.
The Basque midfielder has been struggling with groin and stomach problems and has been back home in Spain receiving intensive treatment. And now the signs are he could be in contention for a return in the crucial home match with Aston Villa on Sunday – Martin O'Neill's side can leapfrog Everton into fifth spot if they win at Goodison Park.
With Tim Cahill out for the rest of the season, manager David Moyes, who should also have Leon Osman available against Villa after his recovery from a hip injury, will be delighted by the prospect of Arteta's return. "Mikel is still in Spain," he said. "We have been speaking with him regularly, and he will be back on Friday and hopefully will be available."
Moyes is believed to be chasing two Russian-based players having been in Moscow last weekend to watch a couple of matches. The Everton manager was understood to be watching CSKA Moscow's Brazilian midfielder Dudu and Zenit St Petersburg forward Andrei Arshavin.
Moyes is already planning for next season, having completed the permanent £2.05m deal for South African midfielder Steven Pienaar, who has been on on loan from Borussia Dortmund since last summer. The former Ajax youngster had been concerned over his future, with the proposed agreement in place with Borussia Dortmund due to expire at the end of the season.
"It had been on my mind for quite a while and I just wanted to get it over with," Pienaar said. "Now that is behind me and I hope I can just concentrate on football. I have signed a long-term deal so I am looking forward to the next three years at the club.
"I have always wanted to play in the Premier League. I have had the opportunity to play for a good club with good supporters so I have to take that opportunity.
"From the first day I came here the guys were really friendly and the gaffer was good to me. It gave me the feeling that I was at home. When you get that feeling you want to stay and that is why I have committed myself to Everton."