Roberto Martinez insists Leighton Baines could yet play a part in tomorrow’s clash with Chelsea although he admits the left-back is a doubt.
England international Baines, 30, missed Saturday’s goalless Merseyside derby with a knee problem sustained at Crystal Palace, and will undergo a late fitness test to determine whether he can return at Stamford Bridge.
Aiden McGeady, who also missed the derby, is definitely out however with a bruised knee, and James McCarthy will also be assessed, with Martinez wary of overburdening the midfielder following his month-long absence with a hamstring problem.
Martinez added: “Leighton had a fitness test on Saturday and he hasn’t been able to train since then. It’s difficult to see him being involved at the moment, but we’ll assess him when he comes in today and we’ll make a final decision closer to the game.
“Aiden McGeady is progressing well but he is not going to be able to make the squad. He still has bruising in his knee bone.
“James McCarthy we need to make sure we assess him again because we don’t want to give him too much work too early. We need to see if we can get him fully fit before we put him on the pitch again.”
Merseyside Derby. Everton FC v Liverpool FC Premier League match at Goodison Park Liverpool. Martin Skrtel tackles James McCarthy
Christian Atsu has not yet returned from African Cup of Nations duty and is ineligible anyway to play against his parent club.
“He has had a really emotional campaign winning the player of the tournament and goal of the tournament, but suffering the heart ache of losing on penalties,” said the Blues boss.
“He will come back on Friday and rejoin the group, then from that point on he’ll be available.”
Tony Hibbert, Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman are still recovering from their respective injuries and remain unavailable.
Martinez once again reiterated that Tim Howard will come straight back into the team now he has recovered from a thigh problem, despite the recent good from of deputy Joel Robles.
The American has now fully recovered from his calf problem and is in line to return after missing eight matches since suffering his injury against Stoke City on Boxing Day.
SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND – Sunday, November 9, 2014: Everton’s goalkeeper Tim Howard looks dejected as Sunderland score the opening goal during the Premier League match at the Stadium of Light. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)
“Tim has been working very well. Yesterday he trained well so he is fully fit now for any games,” Martinez said. “Whenever Tim is fit he is our number one. The experience that he has, what he represents in our squad – I have got total faith in him. It’s great to see him fit again and training again and having a massive influence on our squad.
“The goalkeeping position is a different to any outfield position because the outfield positions is more about moments of form and ways of playing against opposition. In goal you need a bit of stability.
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“Joel has been really good – I’ve been pleased with his two last performances. To keep a clean sheet against Crystal Palace and Liverpool, he has shown the size of the keeper we have. He is still a young man in terms of games but he has shown he has a good future and I have been proud of him.”
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