Everton v Swansea City
Roberto Martinez says Phil Jagielka has a ‘50/50’ chance of playing against Swansea City but Steven Pienaar will definitely miss Saturday’s game at Goodison with a knee injury.
Jagielka has sat out the last three matches with a hamstring complaint and it is touch-and-go whether he will be fit for the weekend.
However, Pienaar is a certain absentee after Martinez revealed the South African has suffered a cartilage problem which could keep him out for the next ‘two to three weeks’.
Arouna Kone, Darron Gibson [both knee] and Bryan Oviedo [broken leg] are all continuing their recovery from long-term injuries, while it is hoped Lacina Traore will return from a hamstring injury before the end of the season.
Martinez said: “Stevie has got a bit of a knock in his knee and that is going to take a bit of time. Phil Jagielka is 50/50 for the weekend.
“We have the same squad that we have for Cardiff.”
Pienaar limped off in the FA Cup defeat at Arsenal and Martinez says it is crucial that he is not rushed back so that he is fully fit for the final stretch of the season.
The Blues boss also echoed these comments when quizzed on Jagielka’s rehabilitation.
He added: “We're going to make sure he [Pienaar] gets the right treatment. I expect it to be two or three weeks and then we'll see how well he recovers.
“It's important he is back before the season ends because he's a vital player for us. We'll make sure he comes back as strong as he can be.
“Phil is our captain and in any situation you want him to be around the players and helping the team through an important part of the season.
“He is a true leader and we want him fit as soon as we can but he needs to be 100 per cent.”
Gerard Deulofeu filled the void left by Pienaar against Cardiff last weekend and marked the occasion with the game’s first goal.
The on-loan Spaniard was then replaced by Aiden McGeady who helped create Seamus Coleman’s winner.
Martinez continued: “Any injury is a blow, but in the same manner you saw how we reacted at the weekend. We're not the type of team who highlights the players who are missing; quite the opposite.
“When you have injured players, we need to make sure we give them the best possible treatment but it gives opportunity to someone else in the squad.
“I think that's been the biggest strength of our season. We haven't relied on 11 players being fit and performing well.
“We've relied on a squad that is ready to come on the pitch and that's been the case with whichever player has been injured.”
For Swansea, Michu could make his first start since December 15 after recovering from ankle surgery.
The striker, who scored 22 goals last season, came off the bench to play the last half-hour in last weekend’s 2-1 reverse to West Bromwich Albion.
Jonjo Shelvey and Nathan Dyer are also in contention to return to the fold after missing recent matches with respective hamstring and heel injuries.
Since the defeat to Sunderland in late December, Everton’s record at Goodison has been immaculate. The Blues have won their last seven home games, most recently sending Cardiff City back to Wales empty-handed last weekend.
Despite the impressive Goodison form, this Saturday’s game represents an opportunity for Roberto Martinez’s side to record their first back-to-back wins since the successes over Queens Park Rangers and Norwich at the start of January.
Swansea head to Merseyside languishing just four points above the drop zone and fully aware that 18th-placed Sunderland have two games in hand on them.
Even long-serving defender Ashley Williams issued a stark warning this week when he said that Swansea were not too good to go down and acknowledged they were in a ‘bit of a battle’.
Counting their Europa League commitments, Garry Monk’s team have lost three of their last four games, including a 2-1 defeat to fellow strugglers West Brom last Saturday.
Indeed, their last Premier League victory was at the start of February – Monk’s first game in charge – when they thrashed rivals Cardiff 3-0.
Everton 3-1 Swansea - 16 February, 2014
Swansea have never beaten Everton in any competition – and that sequence continued in the February FA Cup meeting at Goodison.
Debutant Lacina Traore, substitute Steven Naismith and penalty king Leighton Baines ended the Jacks’ interests in this season’s competition.
It was the second time the Blues had beaten the South Wales outfit this season, with stunning goals from Seamus Coleman and Ross Barkley securing a 2-1 win in the league meeting at the Liberty Stadium in December.
In the corresponding Premier League meeting at Goodison last season, Swansea held Everton to a frustrating goalless draw.