Everton midfielder Darron Gibson could return from a knee injury before the end of the season, manager Roberto Martinez has confirmed.
The 25-year-old damaged his anterior cruciate ligament during the
Republic of Ireland's 3-1 win over Kazakhstan.
It was feared he could miss the rest of the campaign after Everton said
he was facing surgery.
But Martinez said: "I was expecting the worst but with the scans on Wednesday we are really positive now."
The Everton boss added: "It is an anterior cruciate ligament but the whole structure of the knee is perfectly fine and it is going to be straightforward surgery.
"I am looking forward to seeing him back hopefully this season and in that way it was good, positive news taking into consideration what it could have been."
Gibson missed the start of the season because of another knee problem.
He had only just returned to international action
after making himself unavailable for the Republic.
Gibson opted out of the Republic squad during the final 15 months of former boss Giovanni Trapattoni's reign after being left on the bench throughout the Euro 2012 finals.
The midfielder indicated his intention to end his self-imposed exile in the wake of Trapattoni's departure last month and was duly called up by interim boss Noel King for the final two qualifiers against Germany and Kazakhstan.
He played the full 90 minutes in Cologne last Friday
as Ireland went down 3-0, but managed only 35 minutes in Dublin four days later before suffering the injury.
Gibson was treated on the pitch for several minutes before being carried off by medics with his right knee heavily bandaged.