Defensive headache for Everton boss Martinez

Date published: Saturday 23rd April 2016 10:36

Roberto Martinez: Shown the door by Everton

Everton boss Roberto Martinez faces a major selection headache for their FA Cup semi-final clash with Manchester United at Wembley.

Martinez goes into the match amid speculation defeat could spell the end of his tenure after a seven-match winless run in the league, and could have done without a defensive crisis.

Ramiro Funes Mori is definitely missing after his red card in Wednesday’s 4-0 derby trouncing by Liverpool while full-back Seamus Coleman will not recover from a hamstring injury in time.

That also seems likely to be the case for captain Phil Jagielka, and Gareth Barry, who could have deputised, faces a late fitness test on a groin injury.

The only positive news is that John Stones looks set to have recovered from illness. But the 21-year-old has been in poor form recently and is likely to be the only senior centre-half available.

Jagielka’s absence would be a massive blow, and Martinez said: “Medically it’s clear that he shouldn’t be available for the game.

“Knowing Phil Jagielka, he wouldn’t accept no as an answer, and we’re going to give him every opportunity to see if we can get him available. I just feel it’s too big of an ask for him and Seamus Coleman but we’ll assess him.

“Clearly the one we need to assess closely is John Stones, who has got a better opportunity.”

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Should Jagielka miss out, Martinez has the option of playing either Muhamed Besic or James McCarthy out of position at the back, or relying on one of the club’s youngsters.

Everton have recalled 21-year-old Matthew Pennington from his loan spell at Walsall and he will be part of the squad.

When the Toffees produced an exceptional performance to defeat Chelsea 2-0 in the quarter-finals, the hope was it could kickstart their league campaign.

But they have not won since and were totally outplayed against Liverpool even before Funes Mori’s red card.

Victory at Wembley over one of the Premier League’s giants would be the perfect response and would bring some much-needed cheer to the club’s demoralised fans.

Martinez said: “It would bring a feeling of pride and I think at the moment we’re all finding it very tough with the events that we’ve had of late. We’re hurting. The way to get rid of that is bringing a winning feeling.

“We are desperate to get the winning feeling back but to do that you have to play well, you have to be good enough to get that, and clearly we are desperate to make sure we get back to our best level on Saturday.”

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