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Fitness boost for Everton ahead of Crystal Palace clash

Four first-teamers could return at Selhurst Park

Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Everton's much-maligned trip to Qatar could reap dividends with the news that a number of key players are edging their way back to fitness.

Speaking at a news conference ahead of Saturday's game at Crystal Palace Roberto Martinez confirmed penalty-thief Kevin Mirallas is set to return to full training after a hamstring injury and could start against the Eagles.

Sylvain Distin, James McCarthy and Darron Gibson have also joined full training and are in contention, though all three players will be assessed individually before the manager makes any selection decisions.

The return of the influential McCarthy is seen as key to Everton's fortunes, given their improved form when he is on the field.

Martinez appears to have learned his lesson though about McCarthy's hamstring injury and will not rush the midfielder back too soon after two aborted comeback attempts over Christmas.

The early exit from the FA Cup and the resultant break from action hurt at the time but has had a silver lining, with Everton's injury crisis finally looking to be easing.

Martinez said:

"We are hoping that Kevin [Mirallas] is going to be joining the group either today [Thursday] or tomorrow [Friday] and we are going to assess him.

"He’s one of the players that have benefitted massively from being away [in Qatar]. He feels a lot stronger and I do feel that he has a great opportunity to be in the squad against Crystal Palace.

"James McCarthy has been doing really well. He, Darron Gibson and Sylvain Distin joined the group, which is really positive.

"We are going to measure those three and all have opportunities to be in the squad for Saturday.

"It’s not a big secret - James McCarthy is a very important player for us. I do feel now that we are going to get a James that is refreshed and ready for the second half of the season.

"It’s making sure we introduce him in the right way and the right time and allow him to compete for his place."