Everton v Aston Villa
Roberto Martinez again expects to be without Sylvain Distin and Seamus Coleman for Saturday’s home game against Aston Villa.
The duo missed the midweek trip to Anfield and Martinez says both are unlikely to return to full fitness in time for the visit of Paul Lambert’s side to Goodison Park.
However, the boss is hopeful that Distin and Coleman, along with Gerard Deulofeu, will be fit to feature against Tottenham Hotspur a week on Sunday.
“It's a little too early for Seamus Coleman and Sylvain is in a similar situation,” Martinez said at his Thursday press conference.
“Along with Gerard, they should be available for the first game after Villa.”
Martinez also provided a further update on Romelu Lukaku, who was stretchered from the field against Liverpool.
On Wednesday it was confirmed that the injury was less severe than first feared, with the striker expected to be ruled out for ‘weeks rather than months’.
Martinez explained that the next two days will give a clearer indication of the exact timescale the Belgian faces on the sidelines.
"Romelu will be back well before the final seven or eight games of the season, which is very positive,” he said.
"We had very good news in that respect. The structure of the ankle is fine and he sustained no ligament damage. It is badly, badly bruised but it is not a matter of months as we expected.
"We will see how he reacts to the next 48 hours of treatment and we will then see what the best solution is to get him back fit as quickly as possible.
"Other players have been showing very good signs and are desperate to help the team.
"You can't expect to go through a season with no injuries and no suspensions.”
Christian Benteke, a scorer of three goals in his last three games, is likely to spearhead Aston Villa’s attack. The former Genk frontman also netted a brace in the corresponding 3-3 draw at Goodison Park last season.
However, fellow striker Gabriel Agbonlahor is expected to miss out with a foot injury. Loan signing Grant Holt could be promoted to the starting XI, having made cameos from the bench in his first two outings since joining from Wigan Athletic.
Everton are aiming to get back on the horse this Saturday after the midweek reverse at Anfield. And the Blues head into the meeting with Villa buoyed by their impressive home record this season.
Twenty-four points from a possible 33 have been recouped at Goodison Park and Martinez’s men have scored 21 goals en route to sending Chelsea, Newcastle, Hull, Fulham, Stoke, Southampton and Norwich back home empty-handed.
Everton can also take heart from the fact they are unbeaten in their last six clashes against Villa.
Aston Villa rose to 10th in the Premier League table following their topsy-turvy 4-3 home win over Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday evening. It was only a fortnight ago when they were last on Merseyside, where they played out a 2-2 draw with Liverpool.
Paul Lambert’s side now sit eight points above the relegation zone after taking a healthy seven points from their last four league outings.
However, this was not the case at the end of December, when a run of four straight league defeats - to Fulham, Manchester United, Stoke and Crystal Palace - saw them become embroiled in the battle at the foot of the table.
Leon Osman’s impact from the substitutes’ bench helped Everton take maximum points in the season's first meeting with Saturday's opponents at Villa Park in October.
The score was deadlocked at 0-0 when Roberto Martinez introduced the veteran midfielder on the hour mark.
Twenty-one minutes later and Osman had created one goal and scored another.
The 32-year-old guided a pass into the feet of Romelu Lukaku for the opener, with the Belgian duly converting with a low left-footed finish from the edge of the box.
Then Osman found the net from a similar position after being teed-up by former Villa man Gareth Barry.
This all came about after Tim Howard had acrobatically denied Christian Benteke from the penalty spot in the first half.