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Stoke City (A) Wed 4 Mar 2015, 19:45, Barclays Premier League


Roberto Martinez says Kevin Mirallas’ return to goalscoring form will soften the blow of Gerard Deulofeu’s injury.

Deulofeu, 19, was stretchered off in the second half of Everton’s 4-1 win over Fulham – a hamstring complaint which the Blues’ boss said was the ‘big negative’ to come out of Saturday’s game.

Results of a scan have since determined that the on-loan Barcelona forward faces a ‘few weeks’ on the sidelines.

But Martinez took heart that Mirallas – Deulofeu’s replacement from the bench – scored his second goal in three games at Goodison, following on from his strike against Liverpool late last month.

“We wanted to rest Kevin but we couldn’t at the end,” Martinez told evertontv. “I thought he played an important role - to come on, score a goal and be a threat in the final third, so that was very pleasing.

“Hopefully it hasn’t taken too much away from his energy levels because he will be needed over the Christmas period.”

Mirallas’ goals have contributed towards extending Everton’s unbeaten run to nine matches – a sequence which has fuelled media debate as to whether the Toffees can be considered as realistic top-four contenders.

Martinez welcomes these compliments and does not believe the increasing expectancy levels will be a burden for his high-flying side.

After the weekend results, Everton are now just four points behind leaders Arsenal after 16 rounds of fixtures.

Martinez added: “We want to find a way to compete against the top sides through being creative, having youngsters and having a real strong mentality on the pitch.

“We welcome the expectations and all we want is the fans to be proud of the team. If there are expectations then we’re happy because they’ve arrived for the right reasons.

“It’s because the level of performance has been consistent and very good, and that’s down to the players, credit to the players.”

If you want to watch Everton in action this Christmas, tickets for the games against Sunderland (26 December) and Southampton (29 December) are on sale now. Click here to buy online. Alternatively you can call 0871 663 1878* or visit the Box Office, Everton Two or the TicketQuarter.

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