Everton v Manchester City
Roberto Martinez remains optimistic that Phil Jagielka will be fit enough to play against Manchester City this weekend.
Speaking on Thursday morning, Martinez said he was ‘quite confident’ the England defender can end his 11-match absence when Manuel Pellegrini’s title contenders visit Goodison Park.
The Blues boss also revealed that Sylvain Distin is set to return to training on Thursday, though it is still too early to say whether the Frenchman will be available for Saturday’s 5.30pm kick-off.
Distin sat out last weekend’s trip to Southampton with the hamstring injury he sustained in the 2-0 victory over Manchester United on 20 April.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Martinez said: “Sylvain came off with a soft tissue problem against Manchester United. He’ll train today and we will assess him to see how he is.
“It’s very important that Sylvain finishes the season but it’s difficult to say whether he will be involved at the weekend at this stage.
“Phil Jagielka has been recovering well and the plan was always for him to be in the squad for Manchester City, and we are hoping that is going to be the case.
“The work that he has done so far shows me that he will be ready for the weekend. I’m quite confident that will be the case.”
Martinez was handed a boost earlier in the week when injury fears over Leighton Baines were allayed after the left-back was forced from the field at St Mary’s last Saturday.
The Spaniard was also able to report good news on Steven Pienaar, who has returned to training after spending nearly two months on the sidelines with a knee cartilage problem.
The Manchester City game will come too soon for the South African but Martinez is hopeful that the winger will be available for selection for Everton’s final game of the campaign at Hull City a week on Sunday.
Martinez continued: “Stevie is back with the first team. He won’t be available this weekend but we are trying to see if he can be involved in the final squad because it would be a great way to finish the season.”
In addition to Pienaar, Darron Gibson and Arouna Kone [both knee], Lacina Traore [hamstring], Bryan Oviedo [broken leg] and Kevin Mirallas [groin] will all miss Saturday’s game.
Manchester City make the short trip to Merseyside having suffered defeat just once in their last 11 Premier League outings.
Indeed, Manuel Pellegrini's side have lost just six top-flight games all season - form which makes them serious title contenders with three matches left to play.
Five of those six defeats have come on the road however, and City head to Goodison having lost on each of their last four visits.
In fact, City have won only once in 15 trips to the Blue half of Merseyside, while Everton have triumphed in nine of the last 13 meetings between the two sides home and away.
Last weekend's defeat at Southampton has left Everton with it all to do if they are to achieve the top-four finish that has long seemed a possibility, though a point against City will be enough to secure a place in next season's Europa League.
Prior to the reverse at St Mary's Stadium, Roberto Martinez's men had won eight of nine games in the league, including a Club record Premier League run of seven straight victories.
The Blues will also be looking to build on this season's haul of 13 Premier League home wins - a figure which is already another club best.
Manchester City 3-1 Everton, 5 October 2013
Everton looked well positioned to set up a fourth straight Premier League win when loanee Romelu Lukaku slotted home his fourth goal in three games to fire the Blues in front at Etihad Stadium.
However, the lead lasted less than 60 seconds as City's summer signing Alvaro Negredo latched on to a through ball from compatriot David Silva to sweep past goalkeeper Tim Howard.
Sergio Aguero then steered a shot across goal and into the bottom corner on the stroke of half-time and the same player made City's victory safe with a penalty that went in via the post and Howard's shoulder, before eventually going down as an own goal against the American.
Last season's corresponding fixture brought better fortune for the Blues as a wonder goal from Leon Osman and a late deflected effort from striker Nikica Jelavic secured a 2-0 win. Highlights of that game can be watched here.
Evertonians can give the Blues a Goodison send-off by showing their colours during Saturday's game.
A huge crowd flag has been produced and will travel from the Upper Gwladys and across the Upper Bullens moments before kick-off to salute manager Roberto Martinez at the end of his first campaign in charge.
Supporters are invited to bring their own flags to the game to be displayed in the stadium. If you would like to do so, please drop your flag at Park End reception before 1pm on Friday. Please note, flags must be no larger than 1.5m wide by a 1m drop.
In the build-up to the game, the Fan Zone will open at 3.30pm for entertainment, giveaways and live music - including a duet by local singer Jennifer Jewell and former Goodison great Ian Snodin.
The Players' Parade will be open from 3pm, giving fans the chance to meet and greet the squad on arrival in the Park End car park.
Also outside the ground, the Everton stilt-walkers return and will be handing out miniature flags to junior Blues.
Percussion group Batala will be performing along Goodison Road to drum up the atmosphere in the build-up to kick-off.
And after the game, supporters are advised to stay seated as the players will perform a lap of honour around the pitch to sign off the season at Goodison.
A selection of first-team players will at this point take charge of t-shirt cannons to fire limited edition 'Proud To Be Blue' shirts into the crowd.
For those not attending the final home game of the campaign, free live radio commentary will be available via evertonfc.com.
Tickets for this game have sold out.