Martinez in search of derby relief
EVERTON manager Roberto Martinez will take his side on the short journey to Anfield in dire need of some Merseyside derby joy against Liverpool today.
He may have guided the Toffees into an FA Cup semi-final with Manchester United this Saturday, as Everton seek a first major trophy in 21 years, but that has not stilled a growing sense of frustration with the Spaniard's regime among many supporters.
Last weekend's 1-1 draw with Southampton meant Everton have won just 17 out of 51 points at Goodison Park this season. And a current league position of 11th seems a poor return on the talent within their squad.
But Martinez played down talk of growing pressure on his position with a reference to his native Spain.
"There are defining weeks for teams all the time in world football," he said.
"Barcelona have just had one when they were knocked out of the Champions League.
"Ours is mid-April, others had it in February when they went out of the FA Cup.
"But we're in the semi-final of the Cup and you'll see the best side of our fans and we'll be Everton with an incredible togetherness at Wembley."
Everton rested top scorer Romelu Lukaku and England midfielder Ross Barkley against Southampton.
But the pair could return at Liverpool, along with James McCarthy following the midfielder's one-game ban.
Seamus Coleman, however, is out with a hamstring injury which could also keep him out of the Cup semi-final.
Tonight's match will be the latest instalment of the most-played fixture in English football, with this the 226th derby match between the near neighbours.
Liverpool too will try to stop themselves being distracted by dreams of glory elsewhere.
The Reds, who are eighth in the Premier League and still have the incentive of looking to secure qualification for European competition next season, are just over a week away from the first leg of their Europa League semi-final against Villarreal.
Now they are closing in on their first piece of European silverware since 2005 and a return to the Champions League that comes with it.
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp, however, was adamant the domestic league remained the priority.
"Sometimes, rotation is for resting players for another tournament," he said after he made 10 changes to his side for their 2-1 win at Bournemouth on Sunday. It followed the Reds' remarkable comeback victory over Borussia Dortmund, the German's former club, in the Europa League on Thursday.
"But for us, the most important tournament is always the Premier League, and we wanted to win this game. That's the only reason. That's why we took another formation."
Klopp is likely to recall a number of senior players for the derby but striker Divock Origi (back) and defender Kolo Toure (hamstring) are fitness doubts.
Midfielders Jordan Henderson and Emre Can are sidelined with longer-term injuries.
West Ham v Watford
Liverpool v Everton
Man Utd v Crystal Palace
Arsenal v West Brom