STEVEN PIENAAR has admitted he is unlikely to be fit to help Everton start their crucial Christmas period with a victory over Manchester City.
The Blues travel to Eastlands next Monday in search of their first win in eight games, and were hoping the influential South African would have recovered from the groin strain which forced him off against Chelsea earlier this month.
But the 28-year-old used his Twitter page to announce that a scan has revealed he is likely to require a week’s rest before returning.
Pienaar allayed fears the injury was more serious writing, ‘Scan results weren’t that bad, but it looks like I’ll need a week of recovery’.
Now David Moyes will have his fingers crossed that fast-healer Pienaar can at least play some part in the clash with Roberto Mancini’s men.
Moyes asked Pienaar to play through the pain barrier against Wigan Athletic last Saturday, with the former Ajax star lasting 66 minutes of the disappointing 0-0 draw.
His replacement Victor Anichebe, who was booed onto the field, has subsequently moved to insist he does not want to leave Goodison Park despite reports he rejected a new deal.
And Pienaar’s injury could instead spell a return to first team action for Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, who has already said he is ready and waiting to fill the midfielder’s boots should he leave the club in January.
Meanwhile, Belarus defender Dzmitry Verkhovtsovis is set to return home after a week-long trial at Finch Farm when he won the approval of Everton coaches.
The 6ft 3in centre half trained under David Moyes' supervision and played 90 minutes of a reserves match, but was due to return to his club Nafthan Novopolotsk today.
Verkhovtsov had a similar trial at Celtic last year but failed to clinch a £500,000 transfer, instead moving to Latvian side Ventspils in January only to see the deal cancelled in a contractual dispute.
The 24-year-old has become a regular at the heart of Belarus’s defence since making his international debut in 2008 and is highly regarded in eastern Europe.
Verkhovtsov impressed against England at Wembley last year despite being on the wrong end of a 3-0 defeat and would have no problem getting a work permit.
Any permanent switch to Goodison is likely to have to wait until January, when David Moyes knows the extent of the funds at his disposal – and whether any departures will swell his coffers.