A “hungry” Lacina Traore is in contention to make his Everton debut at Tottenham on Sunday, according to Toffees manager Roberto Martinez.
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Traore, 23, who arrived on loan from Monaco on Jan. 24, has been recovering from a hamstring problem sustained before Christmas.
But Martinez, who has indicated that defender Seamus Coleman and forward Gerard Deulofeu will feature at White Hart Lane after recovering from hamstring injuries of their own, could include the Ivory Coast international in his squad.
The Everton boss’ attacking options have been restricted by an ankle injury to Romelu Lukaku, who is a fortnight away from full fitness.
And asked if Traore would travel with the squad to North London for Sunday’s Premier League clash, Martinez told a news conference: “He’s got a chance.
“Lacina is progressing really well. I just need to assess if it’s wise or not to give him playing time. He’s fully fit from a medical point of view. It’s just a matter of giving him the right playing time over the next two or three weeks.
“The last thing we want is to have Lacina push himself, get a little bit stretched trying to get used to the physicality and tempo of the Premier League, and suffer as a result. We’re going to make sure he’s fully fit when he’s on the pitch.
“He’s been working really well. He’s been a breath of fresh air on the training pitch. He’s got an incredibly hungry approach to everything he does. So we’re really excited to see him fully fit and on the pitch.”
Coleman, 25, is fit again after three matches out, while Deulofeu, 19, will be in the Everton squad for the first time since tearing a hamstring during the 4-1 win over Fulham on Dec. 14.
Centre-back Antolin Alcaraz remains out with muscle fatigue, having played just four games for the club since arriving on a free transfer in the summer, but Martinez played down reports that the former Wigan man will be out for another month.
He said: “Antolin is going to be out at the weekend, but it’s nothing to be worried about. It’s just a case of trying to get him back to full fitness.”
Meanwhile, Lukaku, 20, is on course to return when Everton host West Ham on March 1.
Martinez believes the Belgium international will be fit again in a fortnight, when his side travel to Chelsea, but Lukaku will not be able to feature against his parent club under Premier League rules.
The Spaniard said: “Romelu Lukaku’s going to be out for this weekend, and probably for the week after, so it will be a couple of weeks for him. I don’t expect him to be out any longer. He’s been recovering really, really well after his treatment. He’s back in Belgium recovering now.”
Martinez is hopeful that midfielder Darron Gibson and striker Arouna Kone, who have both been out since October with serious knee injuries, will return before the end of the season.
He said: “Darron Gibson is progressing really well. I do feel he’s going to be back before the season ends. That’s something that’s a real bonus.
“Maybe it’s too early to give a clear date as to when he’ll be back, but I expect him to be playing again in May. That’s a credit to his hard work and the way he’s been recovering, so I’m really pleased with that.
“And Arouna Kone will be very similar. I do expect Arouna to be involved as well before the season ends, which is a tremendous credit to the medical department.”
The build-up to Sunday’s match at Tottenham has seen Everton assistant boss Graeme Jones linked with the vacant manager’s job at Swansea, following the sacking of Michael Laudrup.
Jones was assistant to Martinez at Swansea from 2007 to 2009, and held talks with Swans chairman Huw Jenkins over the Liberty Stadium job when Brendan Rodgers left to take charge at Liverpool in June 2012.
However, Martinez insists that Jones will be staying at Goodison Park.
He said: “It’s nothing new. Graeme and I have been working together since 2007 and it’s good when you get those links because it means people still remember the work that you did at a previous club.
“But Graeme is fully focused at Everton and it's not even a question. The only thing that matters is the results at Everton and there's not going to be any changes in that respect.”
Everton go to White Hart Lane sitting fifth in the Premier League, only two points off a top-four spot.
Martinez has managed to maintain the club’s momentum since replacing David Moyes last June.
And left-back Leighton Baines says the former Wigan boss’ inventive methods on the training ground were a key factor in persuading him to sign a new four-year deal at Everton last month.
Martinez, though, says the players deserve credit for being “open-minded” enough to adapt to a more possession-based style of play.
He said: “It’s down to the players. When you are a player in a dressing room, you can be open-minded or you can find it difficult to face change. Remember that footballers are creatures of habit. They are not open to changes too easily.
“Our example is not the norm. We’ve got a group of players who are very confident in what they do, have great standards, and what they’ve done since day one is be open to new ideas. So the answer is clear. It’s a credit to the players and the standards that they have.”
Sunday’s Premier League clash will see Martinez return to the scene of his biggest defeat as a manager.
His Wigan side suffered a 9-1 thrashing at Spurs in November 2009 -- a match in which Jermain Defoe scored five goals.
But Martinez insists that the ground holds no fears for him, pointing out that he guided Wigan to two victories there in his next three visits.
He said: “We had a massive defeat there, as big a defeat as you’re going to get. That allowed us to find out a lot about that dressing room, and allowed us to be successful at the end of the season.
“But more importantly, we then got two away victories at White Hart Lane. That’s a big thing in management, how you overcome a big defeat and how you turn it into a positive after that.
“For me, it was a big satisfaction that, after suffering a big defeat, we were able to go back and be one of the few teams to get a win there That’s where the satisfaction lies. It’s not how you get defeated, it’s how you bounce back.”