Everton interim manager David Unsworth has confirmed that long-term injury victim Yannick Bolasie returned to first-team training on Wednesday (22 November) and is looking forward to being able to utilise the Congo international's talents ahead of what is shaping up to be a gruelling festive period.
Bolasie has been sidelined for almost a year after suffering a serious knee injury in December but recently took part in some training sessions with the Toffees' Under-23s and is now being integrated back into the senior squad, who are set to face Atalanta in a Europa League dead rubber on Thursday [23 November].
Unsworth was delighted to be able to include Bolasie in a light training session with the rest of the Everton first-team but he could not confirm when the former Crystal Palace star will be available to play for the senior squad again. The game against Atalanta predictably comes too soon for Bolasie, who will play no part for the Everton Under-23s when they take on Manchester United on Monday.
"Yannick trained with us this morning for the first time," Unsworth said in his press conference. "He's had a couple of sessions with Under-23s, but he was out with the first team this morning.
"He's a top player and a proven Premier League player. He's got great pace, which is something we need, he scores and creates goals, to get him back sooner rather than later alongside McCarthy, Coleman and Barkley will be a big plus."
Asked if Bolasie could play for Everton's Under-23s on Monday [27 November], Unsworth said: "No that's too soon, we're just gradually integrating him back into the first-team set-up."
Bolasie is just one of a whole host of Everton stars to have been blighted with serious injury problems in recent months. Full-back Seamus Coleman is still on the mend after suffering a broken leg on international duty, while Ross Barkley and James McCarthy are currently out with hamstring and knee injuries respectively.
Coleman has been training outside for a number of weeks with no return date set at this stage, but Unsworth thinks midfielders McCarthy and Barkley may be available for selection in the next couple of weeks.
"McCarthy is a couple weeks away, Ross a couple of weeks away," Unsworth said. "They're starting to filter back in but there's still condition work to be done, we need them back as quickly as possible because they're top players."
Unfortunately for Unsworth his injury concerns do not stop there. The temporary Everton boss is set to be without Mason Holgate for the visit of Atalanta, while Phil Jagielka will play no part against Gian Piero Gasperini's side after being afforded a brief period of rest by Unsworth and his team following the game against Crystal Palace.
Morgan Schneiderlin will also sit out of the clash against Atalanta after picking up a red card in the previous Europa League match against Lyon, but the Frenchman is also struggling with a toe problem ahead of the trip to his former club Southampton on Sunday [26 November].
The midfielder will be assessed ahead of the weekend, but in-form forward Oumar Niasse will play no part against the Serie A outfit and will miss the trip to the St Mary's after his ban for 'successful deception' was upheld by the Football Association, despite the Senegal star's appeal.
"Mason is recovering well from a groin injury and Phil's had a couple of days off, he's not involved tomorrow and will train on Friday." Unsworth said.
"Morgan came off in first half [against Crystal Palace] and had an injection on his toe, he's suspended anyway so we're taking precaution. We hope will be able to return to training on Friday, then we'll see how he is.