Distin, Mirallas good role models for Everton

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

A footballing lesson on their own turf, the general blase reaction to the Wigan defeat, Phil Neville's Top 10 comment, Jan Mucha forgetting to read his post -- this has been quite a week at Everton. Given the events of the past few days, the visit of the current league champions is unlikely to fill many fans with optimism.

Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesAt 35, Sylvain Distin still provides energy for Everton, which could use more of it from several other players.

However, in recent years, especially since Roberto Mancini took the helm, Everton have become something of a bogey team for the Manchester Millionaires. Mancini is yet to win at Everton with the Italian losing each of his three visits to Goodison. Overall, City have just one win in their last 14 at Goodison and the Toffees will look to extend that form on Saturday (ESPN3/WatchESPN).

On the back of some disappointing results, Everton head into Saturday needing to lift themselves and their supporters. Seemingly running out of steam, hindered by the quiet January window and too many draws, one of the few highlights is the consistency shown by Sylvain Distin. The French defender capped an impressive personal month, one Oldham replay goal aside, as fans voted him the club's player of the month for February.

Distin featured in four of the five matches last month; the French defender missed the Old Trafford defeat after pulling out in the warmup. Recalled for the next league match at Norwich, Distin was helpless to prevent defeat but the game saw the centre back pass a personal landmark.

The Norwich match made Distin the first overseas outfield player to feature in 400 Premier League games. A model of consistency since his summer 2009 arrival, the 35-year-old is a permanent fixture in the Everton defence, as Phil Jagielka and John Heitinga continue to tackle fitness and form concerns.

Reward for his consistent performances, Distin recently signed an extension to his contract and shows no sign of slowing despite his advancing years. Strong in the air, quick across the ground; these attributes give Distin the edge of his defensive teammates with the others lacking in one or both of these traits.

Another player sticking his head above the parapet is Kevin Mirallas. Since returning from injury, the Belgian has managed to rise above the malaise affecting the rest of the side.

One of the few to perform against Wigan, Mirallas has two goals and an assist in recent matches. Combining well with fellow injury returnee Seamus Coleman, the right-sided duo are setting the bar for their teammates at present.

Contrast those players with Marouane Fellaini's display against Wigan; the difference could not be greater. While fans voiced their displeasure at his lackadaisical display, there was one pleasing aspect in the aftermath. Mirallas approached his teammate, clearly giving him a piece of his mind; a player caring as much as the fans is a welcome sight.

Needing more of the fighting spirit shown by Mirallas, Everton need a big performance on Saturday. Unceremoniously dumped out of the FA Cup, this match is potentially crucial. Victory may ignite a final European push while defeat could provide the death knell for this current campaign; fans will pray it is the former.

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