Mar 152014

Preview of Saturday’s Premier League game at Goodison

He might be a dreamer with grand visions for Everton FC’s future – but Roberto Martinez is also a realist when necessary.

 The Blues boss was pining for a date with destiny at Wembley in May as much as any Evertonian, but now he is practical enough to know that he must deal with the hand fate has given him.

 So Martinez has quickly adapted to the stance that without the previously welcome distraction of the FA Cup, his side now have the chance to completely focus on their dream finish in the league.

 Fourth place may be the remotest of possibilities but true to form the Catalan won’t give up on it, and he insists his men can have no excuses as they approach the Premier League’s final furlong.

 “I’m not saying this is what we wanted but it’s easier now to understand that this season will now be measured on how many points we can get of the 33 available,” he said.

 “That’s a positive. No distractions. Yes we have a couple of weeks when we play three games in a short period of time but the squad is able to cope with that.

 “All the good work we’ve done so far has given us 48 points – which is one of the biggest points tallies this club has had so far at this point in the Premier League season.

 “Now we’re focused more that we’re not in the FA Cup than we would be if we were. Sometimes being in two competitions can distract you from the reality of the importance of every league point.

 “This period will tell us a lot about how we’re going to be in the future.”

 In order to kick-start his side’s bid for the European qualifying places, Martinez must navigate the potentially difficult visit of survival-chasing Cardiff City this afternoon.

 And the Catalan knows that the Welsh side have a fighting chance under the leadership of his friend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

 “I’ve been really impressed with how he’s handled the pressure of getting results when it really matters. He’s got an incredible experience in the Premier League,” he said.

 “I know we’ll face a team full of confidence which is fighting for each other to get three points.

“It will be a tough encounter but for different reasons we’re both desperate to get three points.”

 As for the wider question of whether Cardiff owner Vincent Tan was right to dispense of the services of Malky Mackay during the club’s first season in the top flight, Martinez does not think it is an issue which will worry the man in the away dug-out today.

 “I think the last thing Ole will have in his mind is the public’s perception over whether Cardiff should have changed managers or not,” he added.

 As for Solsjkaer, he was quick to sing his counterpart’s praises in the build-up to this afternoon’s game – even if he claims superiority in their past-time leisure pursuits.

 “Roberto is a good friend. I’ve know him a long time. Me, him and Jordi Cruyff were good friends in Manchester,” he said.

 “I could see him going on to be a manager, 100 per cent. The three of us actually. There was not much else than football talk.

“The three of us had more manager and coach feelings in us then than players at the time.

 “We were the type of people who played Championship Manager rather than Fifa when you had to play.

“I was always the best on that actually. That’s always been me and that’s always been Roberto.

 “Jordi is now technical director in Tel Aviv and I think you could see that even back then.

“I do admire a manager like Roberto who has stuck to his beliefs and just gone through with them.

 “You look at Everton and you see a good team which has taken on board what Roberto wants.

“Of course I can praise them, talk about all their good players, but we have to make it hard for them.

 “We have to earn the right by running more than them, by wanting it more than them.

“I look at my lads now and they really want to stay in this division. There’s determination there.”

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