Roberto Martinez doesn’t expect James McCarthy to feature at weekend
Irish international has been out of action with a hamstring problem
Everton’s James McCarthy leaves the pitch after being injured during the UEFA Europa League soccer match between VfL Wolfsburg and Everton FC in Wolfsburg, Germany, 27 November 2014. Photograph: Peter Steffen/EPA
Everton manager Roberto Martinez does not expect James McCarthy or Darron Gibson to be ready to make their comebacks this weekend when they travel to the Etihad Stadium to face Manchester City.
McCarthy has missed out on the club’s previous two Premier League fixtures with Hull City and Tottenham Hotspur, with the Irish midfielder nursing a hamstring problem picked up during the Europa League clash with Wolfsburg nine days ago.
Fellow Irish international Darron Gibson, struggling with a knee injury which has ruled him out of all of Everton’s fixtures since Ireland’s European Championship qualifier loss to Scotlenad last month, is also unlikely to return for the trip to the Premier League champions.
Martinez does though expect Arouna Kone and Bryan Oviedo to feature as their return to fitness continues.
What the manager has confirmed is that he intends to start Kone next Thursday in the Europa League home encounter with FK Krasnodar.
The forward has not played a first-team match since October 2013 due to a knee injury.
The Everton boss feels his side need to “sharpen up” but insists there should not be too negative a view taken of how they have been faring recently.
Martinez was disappointed the Toffees were held to a 1-1 Barclays Premier League home draw by Hull on Wednesday, a game which they initially dominated before showing some defensive sloppiness and fading as time went on.
Everton have had Europa League football to deal with this term as well as several injuries, and their manager admitted tiredness had crept in during the midweek match.
The Merseysiders are seven points off the Premier League’s top four in 11th place and Wednesday’s result means they have won only one of their last five top-flight fixtures.
But prior to a 2-1 defeat at Tottenham last Sunday, Martinez’s men were unbeaten in eight games in all competitions, collecting 11 domestic points from the 15 on offer within that period.
And the Spaniard said of his team at his press conference to preview Saturday’s trip to Manchester City: “It is a bit of everything — it is not just about scoring more goals, or defending better.
“Overall, we just need to be a bit more aware of our performances and the games we are involved in, and maybe sharpen up our performances, making sure we find a way to collect all three points.
“We want to win every game, and don’t shy away from that.
“But I think it is important to look at the performances, and stats are a little bit confusing.
“I wouldn’t be too concerned about looking at it as we have only won once in five, I could say we only lost once in the last 10. I’m not too relaxed, but that is all I’m saying.
“Have we got all the points we deserve? Probably not, and we need to address that.
“We are obviously disappointed we had a few draws where we should have won, and a game we lost where we should have got something.
“But the margins are very small.”
Martinez has no doubt Everton will particularly need to be on their toes in Saturday’s Premier League game against second-placed reigning champions City, whose 4-1 victory at Sunderland on Wednesday was their fourth in a row in all competitions and saw their striker Sergio Aguero take his tally for the season to 19 goals.
“Aguero is a phenomenal talent, one of those players who can single-handedly win a game,” Martinez said.
“We have to be very aware tomorrow. I think City are now playing their best football of this campaign. They are playing with real flair and swagger.”
Everton have an in-form frontman themselves in Romelu Lukaku, his strike against Hull being his seventh goal of 2014-15 and his third in four matches.
Both Lukaku and midfielder Ross Barkley have been showing promising signs of late after slow starts to the season following World Cup action with Belgium and England respectively, the latter due to a knee injury.
Although impressing, Barkley is not hitting the back of the net, with only one goal to his name in his last 23 appearances for club and country and none this term.
But, once again questioning what should be made of statistics, Martinez has emphasised that he sees Barkley as a natural goalscorer.
Regarding the star who turned 21 on Friday and who has been reported to be a City transfer target, Martinez said: “He is a goalscorer — he has the instinct for it and the talent in the final third to be really dangerous.
“I don’t look at the stats in that way — I look at the fact he is now fully fit and has been consistently strong for a while.
“He has played a big role recently, and slowly he is finding his best level.”
Everton are also set to have Antolin Alcaraz back available for Saturday’s game, the defender poised for a return to action after missing six fixtures due to a shoulder problem.