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EVERTON remain hopeful that Marouane Fellaini will recover from a knee injury in time to bolster their midfield for Sunday's Merseyside derby with Liverpool.
The Belgium international missed the 1-1 draw with QPR and continues to receive treatment on the injury he suffered against Wigan a fortnight ago.
His return would be well timed with Steven Pienaar suspended for the clash and Darron Gibson injured.
Everton have agreed to extend midfielder Ross Barkley's loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday for another month.
Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina, meanwhile, expects to be fit for the trip to Goodison Park after resting a hamstring injury in the win over Reading.
"I'm getting better, little by little," said Reina, who was replaced by Brad Jones.
"It wasn't worth taking any risks because you risk it getting worse. I'll be patient and get really good."
John Heitinga insists fighting it out for a starting position at the heart of Everton's defence will make him a better player - as the club confirm Ross Barkley will continue his development away from the Blues.
Dutch centre-half Heitinga hopes to earn selection for Sunday's 219th Merseyside derby with Liverpool, a game he describes as the biggest of any season.
However, the 29-year-old will have to break back into David Moyes' team having been left out of the weekend's draw against Queens Park Rangers, with Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin starting in the capital.
Heitinga was substituted at half-time of the Blues' previous game at Wigan Athletic, acknowledging his disappointing performance at the DW Stadium, and with Jagielka and Distin impressing at Loftus Road, the former Ajax man could be struggling to face the Reds this weekend.
But the Holland international has welcomed the level of competition at Goodison Park and believes patience is the key because he will get his chance again.
"I'm not frustrated," he said.
"We've got three really good centre halves and the manager spoke with all three of us and said you are all going to play a lot of games this season.
"Of course you want to play all the games, and also I can play in different positions, but my best position is centre half.
"Last year I think the manager was lucky that one of us had injury or suspension and he didn't have to choose but now the three of us, at the moment everybody is fit and the only player that played all the games is Jags.
"Competition for places makes you a better player.
"There is a lot of competition in the team at the moment and the best player will always play."
Understandably, Heitinga is itching to earn a recall from his manager in time for Sunday's game with Liverpool and though he knows it can often be foolish to label one side as favourite, the Dutchman says Everton have an opportunity to open a healthy gap between themselves and their city rivals.
"I can't wait till Sunday because it's the biggest game of the year in my eyes," he said.
"It's a home game as well and if you take a look at the table, you know, you can't talk about favourites but if we win, there's a big gap between us and Liverpool.
"I'm not talking about favourites but you know this is a game that is different to a league game because it's a derby and the stadiums are not far from each other.
"There is just a park between the stadiums. In games like derbies there are some different emotions that are coming up into your body."
Everton prospect Barkley, meanwhile, has extended his stay at Championship side Sheffield Wednesday.
The 18-year-old will spend another month on loan with Dave Jones' squad having played there for the last four weeks.
Barkley has played seven times for the Owls, scoring once.
Jones said: "The lad has a very bright future and playing games in the Championship will certainly help his development."
Landon Donovan may reject a third loan move to Everton this season, and go on a globe-trotting journey to "find himself" instead.
Los Angeles Galaxy star and USA international Donovan has a long-standing open invitation to play at Goodison on loan once the Major League Soccer season ends.
He spent the second half of the 2009-10 season on Merseyside, scoring twice and adding three assists as Everton won six of the 10 league games he appeared in.
And Donovan came back again last season to have a major impact on the Blues' campaign, as they won four of the nine games he started in the league and FA Cup.
However, in a remarkable interview, the 30-year-old - who has played in three World Cups - has admitted that he is ready to assess his life and career, and could turn his back on the game completely.
Donovan admits Everton stole his heart, but wants to take time to reflect once the US season ends in December.
He claims he doesn't know what his next footballing move will be, and plans to go travelling to try to understand his own character.
"Right now, I need time to think and that is impossible to achieve while I am playing," he said.
"I need to determine if I want to play, and if the answer is yes, I need to work out where and for how long.
"I plan to spend a lot of time travelling to distant places, alone.
"I am not sure where.
"I want to take time to have some freedom and not worry about my next game or being fit. It may take me two weeks, two months or a year.
"I don't plan on worrying about the end result. I want to focus on being present and making the decision when I am ready.
"I am at a point where I realize that if I am to come back I need to do so with the right mindset."
Everton manager David Moyes is a massive admirer of the creative American midfielder.
Donovan only played for a six-week period last season, but in that time, they turned their season around, eventually reaching the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
The winger could well decide that he would like one last spell with the Blues, and could even sign on a permanent basis when his contract with Galaxy expires in a year's time.
But he also insists that he needs to work out in his own mind where he stands as a person.
"Everton was a fling that grew into a full-blown affair. I do think about them because they really stole my heart when I walked into Goodison Park," he revealed.
"Everyone was so unbelievably welcoming, from Mr Moyes to the tea lady. I have such affection for the club.
"But I've struggled with motivation at many points in my career. I've had times where it all came easily but there have been stretches where I have questioned it."
Donovan told ESPN: "I have some selfish things I need to do, and I have some things to work out. While most soccer fans think a player's life is easy as we just seem to play soccer all the time, they don't see how many milestones I have missed with my family.
"My family want me to either play and be happy or else to have their son and brother back."