Leighton Baines is hopeful of making his Everton comeback in time for the busy festive period.
The left-back suffered a fractured toe in the Merseyside derby against Liverpool on November 23 and it was initially feared that he would be out until 2014.
Baines, who revealed that the possibility of playing with pain-killing injections was explored, was reluctant to put a specific date on his return but remains optimistic about playing some role in the fixtures around Christmas.
"The manager said early on it's quite a broad time frame that you can be looking at," the 29-year-old told Everton's official website.
"We thought about different things - injections and stuff - but we didn't know whether that would set us back further, so we are just trying to let it heal naturally at the moment.
"Obviously the schedule thickens up around Christmas and new year, so you like to think you would be back and available to help the team at that point, but it's just one of those things. You have to wait and see."
The England international has endured a frustrating time on the sidelines but his team-mates have coped well in his absence, hammering Stoke City 4-0, winning 1-0 at Manchester United, and claiming an excellent 1-1 draw at Arsenal.
"I've not been able to do a lot to treat it (the toe) because it's a break, so I've just sort of tried to see how it heals really and take it a day at a time," Baines added.
"It's been pretty dull because you can't do a lot. There isn't that much treatment so it's just been a case of coming in and doing little bits of work in the gym and just hoping it recovers."
Everton, who sit fifth in the table, have four Premier League games before the end of the year, three of which are at home.comments