Under-pressure Roberto Martinez in need of Merseyside derby relief against in-form Liverpool
Everton manager takes his side on the short journey to Anfield in dire need of some Merseyside derby joy on Wednesday
Everton manager Roberto Martinez will take his side on the short journey to Anfield in dire need of some Merseyside derby joy against Liverpool on Wednesday.
Martinez may have guided the Toffees into an FA Cup semi-final with Manchester United this coming Saturday, as Everton seek a first major trophy in 21 years, but that hasn’t stilled a growing sense of frustration with the Spaniard’s regime among many supporters.
Last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Southampton meant Everton have won just 17 out of 51 points at Goodison Park this season and a current league position of 11th place seems a poor return on the talent within their squad.
But Martinez played down talk of growing pressure on his position with a reference to his native Spain.
“There are defining weeks for teams all the time in world football,” he said. “Barcelona have just had one when they were knocked out of the Champions League.
“Of course this week is defining but we embrace it and look forward.
“I always say football isn’t about managers. My job is to allow my players to enjoy their football, enjoy the opportunity ahead of them and be as good as they can be.
“Then we’ll see where it takes us. It’s defining for this season of course. Every team has a defining week.
“Ours is mid-April, others had it in February when they went out of the FA Cup. But we’re in the semi-final of the Cup and you’ll see the best side of our fans and we’ll be Everton with an incredible togetherness at Wembley.”
Everton rested top scorer Romelu Lukaku and England midfielder Ross Barkley against Southampton.
But the pair could return at Liverpool, along with James McCarthy following the midfielder’s one-game ban.
Seamus Coleman, however, is out with a hamstring injury which could also keep him out of the Cup semi-final.
Wednesday’s match will be the latest instalment of the most-played fixture in English football, with this the 226th derby match between the near neighbours.
Liverpool too will try to stop themselves being distracted by dreams of glory elsewhere.
The Reds, who are eighth in the Premier League table and do still have the incentive of looking to secure qualification for European competition next season, are just over a week away from the first leg of their Europa League semi-final against Villarreal.
Now they are closing in on their first piece of European silverware since 2005 and a return to the Champions League that comes with it.
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp, however, was adamant the domestic league remained the priority.
“Sometimes rotation is for resting players for another tournament,” said Klopp after he made 10 changes to his side for Liverpool’s 2-1 win at Bournemouth on Sunday following the Reds’ remarkable comeback victory over Borussia Dortmund, the German’s former club, in the Europa League last Thursday.
“But for us the most important tournament is always the Premier League, and we wanted to win this game. That’s the only reason. That’s why we took another formation.
“You cannot rest for another tournament, you can only try to find a few more fit players. That’s what we tried to do.
“Now we have two more Premier League games before our next Europa League game, so we won’t be thinking about the Europa League until then.”
Klopp is likely to recall a number of senior players for the derby but striker Divock Origi (back) and defender Kolo Toure (hamstring) are fitness doubts, while midfielders Jordan Henderson and Emre Can are sidelined with longer-term injuries.