Baines set to return ahead of Saints clash

Daily Echo: Leighton Baines Leighton Baines

Everton boss Roberto Martinez has reported that Toffees defender Leighton Baines is ''not far away'' from making a return to first-team action, with the left-back expected to be fit in time to face Saints on December 29.

Baines has not featured since suffering a fractured toe in the Merseyside derby clash with Liverpool on November 23, but the Boxing Day home match against Sunderland appears likely to be the point at which he will make his comeback.

Asked on Friday for an update on the full-back's condition ahead of Sunday's trip to Swansea, Martinez would not rule Baines out of being involved in that game but stressed the importance of the comeback not being rushed.

''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 the Boxing Day, or possibly even earlier. But it just depends on how the next two days show up in his foot.''

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