(Reuters) - Everton are looking forward to the return of key players Yannick Bolasie, James McCarthy and Ross Barkley from injury layoffs with interim manager David Unsworth saying the trio were close to full fitness.
Midfielder Bolasie has been sidelined for almost a year with a knee injury but took part in first team training on Wednesday, while McCarthy and Barkley are expected to recover from their respective hamstring injuries in a few weeks.
“Yannick trained with us this morning for the first time...,” Unsworth told reporters ahead of Thursday’s Europa League game against Atalanta.
“We’re just gradually integrating him back into the first team set-up. He’s a top player, a proven Premier League player and he’s got great pace - something that we need.
“To get those proven Premier League players back into the team and into the squad will be a big plus for us. McCarthy is a couple of weeks away, Ross maybe a couple of weeks away, as well.”
Defender Mason Holgate is yet to recover from a groin strain but fellow centre-back Phil Jagielka and midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin are expected to be fit for Sunday’s league match at Southampton.
Unsworth took over at Everton on a temporary basis following the sacking of Ronald Koeman last month and the 44-year-old insists he is focused on the next game rather than the length of his stint as the club searches for a new permanent boss.
“Conversations have already taken place as regards areas we need improving, or recruitment in January, and they will continue,” Unsworth added.
“I am in communication with every department. That won’t change day to day, week to week, depending on how long I am in the job, until somebody else takes this seat.”
Everton have failed to make it to the knockout stages of the Europa League but play their penultimate group game on Thursday.
Unsworth’s team are 16th in the league with one win in their last six games while Southampton are a point ahead in 14th but struggling on a three-game winless streak.
Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru