Martinez: McCarthy is fit for Merseyside derby

By Aidan Fitzmaurice

EVERTON boss Roberto Martinez has played down fears about James McCarthy's fitness and says he expects to see the Ireland midfielder in action in the Merseyside derby on Saturday.

Reports emerged last night that McCarthy, who has missed the last six games for his club due to a long-standing hamstring injury, has broken down in training and was facing another spell on the sidelines.

That would have been a serious concern for Martinez and also for Ireland boss Martin O'Neill, who has been able to use McCarthy in just one of the last 10 internationals, as he plans for the key Euro 2016 date with Poland next month.

But manager Martinez today stated that the claims were wide of the mark and that McCarthy, who hasn't played a full 90 minutes since November, was available for the weekend clash with Liverpool.

"He (McCarthy) was in hospital yesterday having a scan to make sure he is fully recovered. The scans have shown that he is perfectly healed and now it is about adapting him to the match intensity," Martinez said today at his press conference ahead of that derby on Saturday.

"I expect James to be in the squad for the weekend so it is terrific news in that respect."

McCarthy has been plagued by injury all season and has made just 19 appearances for club and country this season and has started just 13 of the club's 23 Premier League games.

He has also been missed at international level, McCarthy sitting out the last four Ireland games and he featured in only two of the 11 games played by Ireland in 2014.

Earlier this week, O'Neill said he was hopeful of seeing McCarthy back in the green shirt soon.

"I think he's pretty well close to fitness which would be great because he's an important player for club and country," said the Ireland boss, who also elaborated on the gulf between the club and the FAI in terms of McCarthhy's fitness, after Martinez made the bizarre claim that McCarthy's injury worries had been compounded by being on Ireland duty.

"He didn't play in June, we let him off, so I don't know how Roberto could blame the international matches for his injury."