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Injured Toffees skipper Neville out until Christmas

Everton have received a glimmer of good news regarding Phil Neville as the captain is likely to avoid surgery on a knee ligament injury, meaning he could be back in action by Christmas.

Neville sustained cruciate ligament damage following a challenge from Fulham's Dickson Etuhu at the weekend and the club initially confirmed that the 32-year-old was facing a "lengthy lay-off".

It was feared that Neville would miss a substantial portion of the season and that has been confirmed following an assessment from a specialist on Wednesday as the former Manchester United man will be sidelined for a minimum of three months.

However, it is expected that he will avoid surgery and the kind of lengthier absence that has afflicted team-mates Phil Jagielka and Mikel Arteta in the past eight months.

"As we suspected, the scan revealed that Phil has torn his posterior cruciate ligament at the back of his knee," head physiotherapist Mick Rathbone told the club's official website. "There will be a further assessment in three weeks when the swelling has gone completely but the surgeon's feeling is that it won't require surgery. Although it could have been worse, we are still looking at a Christmas/New Year return for Phil."

Everton have moved to compensate for Neville's absence by lining up a deal for free-agent Lucas Neill. The defender has arrived on Merseyside for a medical with David Moyes' side.

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