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Everton Pair Close To First XI Return

Roberto Martinez has revealed that Tom Cleverley and Leighton Baines could be returning to the starting XI sooner rather than later. However, there could be shortages at the back before then...

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Everton manager Roberto Martinez is hoping that Tom Cleverley and Leighton Baines can return to the fold in the coming weeks.

The former could be featuring as soon as Saturday, with the Catalan hoping that the midfielder could be ready for the visit of former club Aston Villa. With Mohamed Besic playing for his country in the international break as well, there will be plenty of depth in central midfield over the Christmas period.

"Tom is fully fit now," said Martinez, "He had a little bit of a cold over the weekend that stopped him from training but he is back now and it is about making sure he gets in enough work in order to be considered 100%. He is not far away from being available for the squad."

There is also good news for Leighton Baines, who recently took part in a behind-closed-doors friendly. The England international scored one and assisted another in the fixture to show that he is ready to hit the ground running.

"The break has been exactly what Leighton needed," said the boss. "He has been able to have contact with the football and develop that match fitness that he needs.

"We need to be cautious because it was a re-injury, and he has been sidelined for a long period of time. We will give him as much time as we can but we are in a positive period. A lot of good work has been put in, he had the behind-closed-doors game and every day in training is another step towards getting him back to full fitness and being available.

"I think it is too early to tell when that moment will be when he can be reintroduced back in to the team but certainly every day is a step towards that."

The 42-year-old also gave an update on Brendan Galloway and Tyias Browning, who sustained knocks while with the England Under 21s side. Both are doubts for the Aston Villa encounter.

"Tyias and Brendan picked up knocks and they are things we are going to assess," said Martinez. "They weren't in 100% condition when they joined up with the Under 21s, and we have a very good relationship with England.

"It was important that we could look after the players, rather than risking potential problems. They have been working on individual programmes for the last two or three days but it is too early to tell if they are going to be available or not."

If Galloway is ruled out of this weekend's encounter, then it could lead to problems at left-back. With Ramiro Funes Mori needed at centre-back and Bryan Oviedo still injured, someone such as Gareth Barry or Aaron Lennon (who has already done so this season in the Capital One Cup) may need to fill in at full-back.