Everton Vs Manchester City, Sat 16 Jan 2010

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Sylvain Distin could be in line for a return to action against one of his former teams when Everton host Manchester City in the Barclays Premier League.

The Toffees defender has not played since early December but is nearing a full recovery from his hamstring problem.

Manager David Moyes has confirmed Lucas Neill is available to play against City before his proposed move to Galatasaray.

Victor Anichebe, Mikel Arteta, Tony Hibbert, Phil Jagielka, Jack Rodwell and Dan Gosling are all injured, while Ayegbeni Yakubu and Joseph Yobo are at the African Nations Cup.

It is understood Brazilian striker Jo will not feature in the squad following his suspension for a breach of discipline.

Moyes believes Everton may struggle to cope with the loss of Neill over the next few weeks.

Moyes has been linked with a move for Arsenal centre-back Phillipe Senderos to fill the void, but the Scot would not be drawn on transfer speculation although he admitted that, with several members of the Everton backline still on the road to recovery, Neill's imminent departure may create some problems.

"I wouldn't be optimistic about replacing anybody because I think it's a difficult market," Moyes said.

"I certainly won't talk about players at other clubs because that's not the right thing to do, but I wouldn't be confident that we would be able to get a replacement in.

"It could leave us a gap, certainly in the short term. Joseph Yobo could be back in a couple of weeks time and Phil Jagielka's not too far away on the horizon, but maybe in the short term it may leave me short. But over the piece, I think if I get over the next couple of weeks then I think I would be okay."

Nedum Onuoha could return to the Manchester City squad.

Onuoha has missed four games with a calf injury but is expected to be on the bench as new boss Roberto Mancini looks to maintain his 100% record.

Mancini has not been in touch with Emmanuel Adebayor to see when he will return from Togo and new signing Patrick Vieira (calf) is still sidelined.

Mancini does not expect Manchester City to become Barclays Premier League champions this season.

The Italian has enjoyed a glorious start to life at Eastlands, winning his first four games in charge, most recently against Blackburn on Monday.

That 4-1 triumph took City into the top four, which was the target handed to former boss Mark Hughes at the start of the season by owner Sheikh Mansour and has now been passed to Mancini.

But, with City only seven points behind leaders Chelsea and only six adrift of local rivals Manchester United, with a game in hand, there has been optimistic talk among the Blues faithful about a serious tilt for top spot and their first championship since 1968.

But Mancini does not expect the gap to narrow completely and believes his run of three league titles on the trot, all with Inter Milan, is destined to come to an end.

"To my mind there are three teams who can win the league; Chelsea, United and Arsenal," he said. "Football can be strange and things can change in a couple of months. There are other teams who are only just behind so nothing is totally impossible but for me, it is between those three."

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Manchester City
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Sylvain Distin

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