Zola has plenty to consider

Gianfranco Zola has been busy preparing his squad for the visit of London rivals Arsenal on Sunday while there is encouraging signs for Kieron Dyer.

James Collins and Lee Bowyer are back in contention after recovering from injuries but Mark Noble will miss out after damaging his calf in training this week. Diego Tristan will also be given more time to prove his fitness. Zola said: "We have Mark Noble who is going to be out for a few weeks. He just had a tear problem in his calf and that is the bad news. But we have Lee Bowyer coming back from injury and James Collins will be available for the game."

The manager went along to watch the reserves in midweek action, and was impressed by what he saw in the 1-0 home win against Arsenal's second string. Hayden Mullins, Luis Boa Morte and Jack Collison all staked their claim for a starting berth in the midfield. The latter only turned 20 this month but Zola is confident in the club's emerging talents. "There are some young players coming through who can become important players," he said.

Of Dyer, who was involved in Friday morning's training session with the rest of the first-team squad as he gets close to a return after over a year out with a double leg-break, Zola said: "He is not far away but this is the most delicate time. He is progressing very well. We are bringing him with us to do the first part of the job that we do [in training] but he still needs a little bit of time. He can't really tackle and do things like that. He is doing OK and we are really pleased. "

Meanwhile, Jonathan Spector is due back at the club this weekend ahead of resuming training. He had summer surgery on a hip injury and has been working hard on his recovery in the United States. Also, set to be involved next week after a medial knee ligament injury he picked up on England Under-19 duty is James Tomkins. Finally, Dean Ashton has also reported good early progress on his rehab from an ankle injury, and has been a regular back at the training ground. He has discarded the crutches and already started swimming and cycling, although no date has yet been put on his return in the New Year.