The Everton midfielder Mikel Arteta is ready to face Premier League newcomers Queen's Park Rangers at Goodison Park this weekend despite missing key parts of pre-season through injury.
The Spaniard injured a foot on the club's tour to the United States last month and, although fears he had broken a bone were quickly dismissed, it impeded his preparation. However, he played 67 minutes of a friendly with Bohemians in Ireland yesterday – hastily arranged after Everton's opening league match at Tottenham was postponed because of the London riots – and feels ready for action.
"It's good to be back. I nearly broke my foot in a tackle in America," the 29-year-old told the Liverpool Echo. "Thankfully, it wasn't but it took a couple of weeks to find out due to the swelling. I couldn't train but, hopefully, now I can get my fitness back and start the season properly.
"It was not ideal because in pre-season you want to take part in every session and play all the games to get in the best condition possible for the start. But it's not been the case. I've been working really hard in the last 10 days and we'll see how I do in the game against QPR. I will tell you how far I am off full fitness after the game on Saturday."
Arteta's return to fitness will be a boost to the Everton manager, David Moyes, who opted not to play Louis Saha, Leighton Baines, Tim Cahill and Phil Jagielka in the match in Ireland.
The delay in starting the club's league campaign has no doubt helped the playmaker in his recovery and the match in Ireland was also a useful exercise for other players catching up with the rest of the squad in terms of fitness. Assistant manager Steve Round was pleased to see the Spaniard come through more than an hour without any problems, with a few others also getting some useful game time.
"He has taken another step closer to being fully fit," Round told evertontv. "The game also got Marouane Fellaini, Mikel, Jack Rodwell and Tony Hibbert more minutes and they need that, having missed bits and bobs during the summer."
Another midfielder familiar with injury problems is Kieron Dyer, but for once the Queen's Park Rangers player has heard some good news on that front. He will return to training in "days rather than weeks", according to the club's head physio, Nigel Cox, after being forced off less than five minutes into his Rangers debut against Bolton Wanderers on Saturday.
The 32-year-old was taken from the pitch on a stretcher and there were fears that he might have suffered a serious foot injury, but Cox has dismissed such concerns.
"The early indication we are getting is that the injury certainly isn't as serious as first feared," Cox told the club's website. "At the time, Kieron said he felt a 'popping' sensation, so he understandably feared he had broken a bone in his foot. But you can have that feeling with ligament damage as well.
"At first we thought it was a fracture but we had an X-ray on the day and an MRI as well, and that's shown there is no bone fracture.
"But the foot is a very dextrous part of the body and there are a tremendous amount of ligaments involved.
"We still had concerns that an important ligament, which can be a debilitating injury if missed, was damaged, so we had a further X-ray on Monday to rule that particular ligament out. Thankfully, that came back clear. At this stage it looks like a soft tissue ligament injury.
"There has been a lot of swelling and Kieron is still in some discomfort, but it is moving forward quite rapidly," Cox added. "We are cautiously optimistic at this stage. If it does prove to be what we believe it is, we are looking at him returning to training in days rather than weeks."Reuse content