How Will They Line Up: Liverpool vs Everton
Everton manager Roberto Martinez says he is prepared to “fight” to keep Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku beyond the summer.
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Lukaku, 20, has scored nine goals in 17 Premier League appearances since arriving from on a season-long loan in September.
The Belgium international is due to return to Stamford Bridge at the end of the season, but the Sunday Mirror reported at the weekend that Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho is prepared to sell him in order to fund a bid for Paris Saint-Germain’s Uruguay international forward Edinson Cavani.
Everton would struggle to afford the reported price tag of 23 million pounds for Lukaku, but Martinez would be interested in a longer deal if it could be done.
In the meantime, though, Everton’s manager is keen to see the Belgium international aid the push for a Champions League place over the final four months of the season.
Martinez said: “I don’t think it’s an issue for now. We’ve been so satisfied in the manner which he’s settled in at the club, and the way that he’s been enjoying his football. I want to see Romelu enjoying his second half of the season and growing even further.
“At the end of the season, it’s an issue that we’re going to try to fight for as much as we can. We always wanted Romelu to feel loved by every Evertonian, to allow him to enjoy his football, and he’s done that so far.
“I still think that over the next four months, we’re going to see a lot more of that.”
Martinez has not ruled out the possibility of bringing in a defensive player before the transfer window shuts on Friday, but said that would only happen if John Heitinga left the club.
Heitinga, who turned down a move to West Ham earlier this month, is reportedly wanted by Roma and Galatasaray.
The 30-year-old made only his fifth appearance of the season on Saturday, scoring in the 4-0 FA Cup fourth-round win at Stevenage, and is looking for a move to get regular football as he bids to force his way into Holland’s World Cup squad.
Martinez said: “We’ll find out over the next 48 hours whether he’s going to stay with us until the end of the season or whether we will agree a deal for him to try to play minutes and get into the World Cup squad.
“That will be, maybe, the difference. As you know, we’re a little bit thin in numbers because of the little niggles and injuries that we have, but I expect players to come back from that -- and when everyone is back, we are strong enough to face the two competitions from now until the end of the season.”
Martinez goes into Tuesday’s Merseyside derby against Liverpool at Anfield short of players, with Costa Rican left-back Bryan Oviedo suffering a double fracture of his leg during the win at Stevenage.
He joins midfielder Darron Gibson and striker Arouna Kone (both knee) on the long-term injury list.
Everton also have doubts over three centre-backs -- captain Phil Jagielka (hamstring), Sylvain Distin (hamstring) and Antolin Alcaraz (muscle fatigue) -- as well as right-back Seamus Coleman (hamstring) and midfielders Steven Pienaar (groin) and Ross Barkley (broken toe).
New signing Lacina Traore, brought in last Friday on loan from Monaco for the rest of the season, is recovering from a hamstring problem and will be assessed.
And on-loan Barcelona forward Gerard Deulofeu is getting close to full fitness after six weeks out with a torn hamstring, with Martinez indicating that he could return for the trip to Tottenham on Feb. 9.
Oviedo’s injury has put his hopes of playing at this summer’s World Cup in doubt, but Martinez thinks he could still make it.
The manager said: “It’s one of those injuries where you can have a very broad timescale. They always speak about it being between five and six months. The thing is, that depends on how the surgery goes, whether there are any complications straight afterwards.
“It also depends on the type of person, how quickly they heal. I think with Bryan, it will be a lot less than that. His goal is to get back as quickly as he can, because if he could make the World Cup, that would be an incredible boost.
“I don’t think anyone can say whether he is going to miss the World Cup or not. It’s still up in the air, and knowing Bryan, that’s something that will help him – to try to get that target. If not, he’ll be ready for preseason.”