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

by Adam Clark @efc_adamclark

Everton manager Roberto Martinez is confident his squad boasts more than enough options to cope with the Club's latest injury set-backs.

A groin tear this week saw the Blues lose winger Kevin Mirallas for the rest of the season, while a hamstring complaint will force defender Sylvain Distin to sit out Saturday's trip to Southampton.

And while Bryan Oviedo, Darron Gibson, Steven Pienaar, Arouna Kone, Lacina Traore and skipper Phil Jagielka complete a substantial Everton injury list, Martinez has faith his side remain well-stocked for their tilt at a top-four finish.

The Blues head to St Mary's knowing a win can move them back above Arsenal into the final Champions League qualification spot and speaking on Thursday, the Spaniard said: "To lose players for the time we have is unfortunate. But I think we’ve taken advantage of those negatives and I don’t think we have been a team that has felt sorry about the players that weren’t there. It was the opposite.

"The big positive is that we've been sharing the demands. We've had Kevin Mirallas with a very good level of performance, but then Aiden McGeady has been showing that he's ready, Gerard Deulofeu has won games singlehandedly at times and Leon Osman's experience is always easy to fit into the team.

"So we've got the options and it's not that they're players who are rusty or who we haven't seen performing for a while - everyone has been in full training, everyone is in good form.

"Obviously we don't want to lose players, but I think we can cope."

One particularly pleasing positive for Martinez has been the way his squad's younger players have responded to the responsibility of being thrown headfirst into a competitive and demanding fight for Europe.

John Stones has deputised near-faultlessly in the absence of Jagielka, while Ross Barkley's form was last week rewarded when he was named on the list of nominees for the PFA's Young Player of the Year award.

Defenders Luke Garbutt and Tyias Browning have both been regulars on the substitutes' bench in recent weeks and Martinez hinted that the latest injuries to Mirallas and Distin could present the opportunity for more players to step up into the first-team squad.

"If you look overall at the season, we have been giving opportunities throughout, and we have got players that are 19, 20 and 21 who have been given huge roles in the side," continued Martinez.

"I don’t think it is about being young or not, it is about being prepared and I think that our young players are very much prepared to help the team.  

"Sometimes you need that opportunity that comes through injury or suspension - and I don’t think that’s a case where we need to be worried that we are going to drop the level of performance. The work that is being done behind the season prepares the young players to be ready. And probably that unknown quantity has given us an extra edge in our performances.

"We pride ourselves in the work we do with the youngsters and wanting to be brave enough as a team to give them opportunities. But that doesn't mean we are going to drop the level of performance at all.

"We have got young players that are very much capable of coming in and showing what they can do, and that excites me.

"This weekend, maybe we will have to bring someone from the Under-21s group and give them an opportunity, and that is what we are as a football club.

"We are not a club that are going to blame people missing or having injuries - we are just excited about the opportunities that are given to young players."

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