Baines set for Everton return
5:57pm Tuesday 7th January 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Everton defender Leighton Baines could return to action this weekend but Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka are likely to be sidelined for another fortnight.
Manager Roberto Martinez is confident his England left-back will be fit for the visit of Norwich after sitting out the FA Cup win over QPR with a back spasm.
"Leighton Baines just had a back spasm and he is recovering as we expected so I don't think he's going to be too far from being able to train," he said.
"I would say Leighton will be back in training on Thursday. We'll then have to assess him.
"Back spasms can be cleared completely or they can leave you with a little bit of a lack of mobility.
"Any player needs to be 100 per cent to be able to play and to be considered to play, so we'll assess Leighton on Thursday, see how he is and take it from there."
The hamstring injuries sustained by Baines' defensive colleagues are, however, set to keep the pair out for possibly another two weeks - although that would still be timely as Everton have an FA Cup fourth round tie at Stevenage followed a couple of days later by a trip to Anfield in the Merseyside derby.
"Sylvain and Phil Jagielka both have got probably a period of between seven and 10 days, but I would say two weeks is the most realistic time," Martinez told evertontv.
"But they are players who recover really well from these sorts of soft tissue injuries. They are not major problems."
On-loan Barcelona forward Gerard Deulofeu is also on course to recover from his hamstring injury by the end of the month.
The 19-year-old returned to his parent club for treatment and Martinez said his situation was progressing in line with estimates.
"He is well on for the period we expected. The reports were very positive and he is recovering well but there is still a long way to go," added the Spaniard.
"It is not a straightforward injury Gerard has but we are positive by the end of January he will be at full fitness.
"Barcelona have been very professional and we benefited from that.
"We've got a good period now with good games and a little bit of a rest period in between, so we'll use that to our advantage," he added.
"Then we're going into the end of January and beginning of February and another very busy period, so we need to make sure we don't carry any injuries with us."
Martinez is pleased with how his squad have dealt with the injuries over the busy festive period and while he is still looking for a couple of additions in the transfer window - to offset the likely departures of Nikica Jelavic and John Heitinga - he is wary of upsetting the harmony within a tightly-knit squad.
"What has been important for us is to see how the squad would react in this demanding period," said the Toffees boss.
"What we cannot afford is to lose what we have got and we have something special in that dressing room.
"The last thing we can afford is for someone (a new signing) to dislodge or affect the dynamic of the dressing room."