David Moyes will once again have to patch up his back four against Fulham after admitting Friday night’s FA Cup fourth round tie will come too quickly for either Phil Jagielka or Sylvain Distin.
Jagielka (knee) and Distin (hamstring) have missed the Blues’ last two games, and youngster Shane Duffy has come into the side to partner Dutch international John Heitinga at the back.
The two centre-halves are part of a list of absentees that still includes Leon Osman (foot), Seamus Coleman (groin) and Jack Rodwell (hamstring).
One player who is available again is Tony Hibbert, and with the crunch cup clash with the Cottagers quickly followed by the visit of table-topping Man City, Moyes admits he has a decision to make whether to persevere with Duffy or bring in Hibbert.
The inexperienced Duffy, an out and out centre-half, has impressed thus far but is relatively untested at the level. The dependable Hibbert, a full-back by trade, has stepped in at centre-half before and has come up against the big boys time and again in his 10 years of first-team service.
Moyes said: “Sylvain and Jagielka are both progressing well but won’t be available for this game.
“So far Shane has done really well in the games and it is terrific for the boy. He has got something and he has a chance. He will certainly make a really good career in the game and we hope it is at Everton.
“The level is going to step up shortly and the more you play, the more people expect from you. In your first couple of games as a youngster people do not expect too much.
“When you stay in the team then the supporters’ and the manager’s eye gets drawn to you. We want him to keep doing things simple and not over-complicate things, and if he keeps playing as well as he has done in the last two games then we will all be happy.
“The decision for me is that I will have Tony Hibbert fit and available, so do I put him in because of his experience, albeit not being a centre half? So we have got that in our mind as well because the games now are really important games.
“We have got to win in the cup to get through and we have games coming up that are against really top teams. We have to decide if Shane is the right one for the job.”
Another player who has been absent in recent weeks is youngster Ross Barkley, who has been missing with a knee injury.
The 18-year-old made his comeback for the Academy side last weekend, and Moyes says he will ease him back in at the right pace.
He said: “Ross played a game for the youth team last week but then the reserve game in midweek was called off.
“Hopefully there will be no reaction to the bit of fluid on the knee he had and we will bring him back as and when he is ready.”
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