Everton manager Sam Allardyce has lauded the return of Michael Keane and Phil Jagielka from injury ahead of his side's trip to face Newcastle United on Wednesday (13 December) but will not be able to welcome back Leighton Baines or any of his side's long-term injury victims for the clash at St James' Park.
Jagielka and Keane were both named as substitutes for the Merseyside derby on Sunday, with the former coming on for the last knockings of the clash against Liverpool to help the Toffees earn a hard-fought point at Anfield.
Keane remained on the bench but was afforded a few minutes of action against Huddersfield Town in the previous league match. Allardyce is happy to see the two centre-backs return to full fitness ahead of the clash against Newcastle, though he will likely stick with the same back four that served him so well against the Reds.
Keane and Jagielka's returns to fitness could prove vital for Everton ahead of what promises to be a typically strenuous festive period, but Allardyce is still without Baines, who injured his calf against Southampton last month.
Cuco Martina has deputised well in the absence of Baines, who is the only specialist left-back registered in Everton's Premier League squad, and the Curacao international will have to make the best of his current situation as the 33-year-old remains on the sidelines along with the rest of his side's injured contingent.
Asked if Baines was in line to return for the clash against Newcastle, Allardyce said in his press conference: "No, none of those are available. From a defensive point of view to have Michael Keane and Phil back is important."
Wayne Rooney has skippered Everton in the absence of club captain Jagielka. The 32-year-old has flourished with the armband, scoring a hat-trick against West Ham United and a decisive spot kick against Liverpool, and Allardyce is keen for him, Jagielka and a number of Everton's elder statesman to pass on their thoughts to his backroom staff when necessary.
"He [Rooney] is very important, and Phil Jagielka is very important too," Allardyce said. "I would like a small group of senior players to communicate between me and the staff so if there's anything we need to tweak or do we can have a look at it."
Allardyce has been keen to point out Everton's extensive injury list since succeeding Ronald Koeman earlier this month, but he was encouraged to see attacker Yannick Bolasie take a huge step in his recovery from a horrific injury by turning out for the club's Under-23 side on Monday.
The Congo international was "overwhelmed" as he got through half an hour against Leicester City unscathed but is aware that he will not be firing on all cylinders for another month or so. Bolasie's return to action was coupled with a positive update from wantaway midfielder Ross Barkley, who posted a picture of his scarred thigh on Instagram with the caption: "Not long now".
Allardyce was encouraged to see Bolasie back on grass and will no doubt be pleased to have Barkley available for selection in the coming weeks, though he may not be able to convince the 24-year-old to stay at his boyhood club beyond the January transfer window.
Barkley and Bolasie are not the only injured first-team stars Allardyce is doing without at the moment, and the England boss is looking forward to the "headache" that the likes of Seamus Coleman, James McCarthy and Ramiro Funes Mori will soon provide.
"It is good news [to see Yannick back]," Allardyce said. "He'll be eager to get back like every injured player and my difficulty will be holding him back.
"Everton's problem is still injuries and because they're not around so much, Stekelenburg, Baines, Coleman, Mori, Barkley, Yannick, McCarthy, we have a lot of big players missing from this squad. The players available are performing and getting the results, we will improve when these players return, which will give me a headache."