ROBERTO Martinez says he won't take a risk with James McCarthy's fitness even though he is desperate to have the Ireland man back in the Everton midfield.
McCarthy (pictured) has been sidelined for the Toffees' last five games and while has made progress with a long-standing hamstring injury thanks to a mid-season break with the club in Qatar last week, and is in contention to feature against Crystal Palace tomorrow, Martinez is careful not to rush the player back.
McCarthy has been missed by the club and Martinez stresses the importance of the Irishman.
"James McCarthy is a very important player of ours and I do feel that now we are going to get a James who is fully fit and refreshed for the second half of the season," said the Blues boss.
"It's making sure that we introduce him in the right way and at the right time and allow him to compete for his place.
"We have Mo Besic who has reached a very good level, Darron Gibson has been training with the first team as well and after the long term injury he has had I hope he is going to finish the season strong.
"We have started the season with Gareth Barry in midfield and Ross Barkley and we are starting to become a strong group again in that position and that's very important.
"But James McCarthy was important in the success we had last season and he is an infectious character in the way he plays and we need him back as soon as we can," added the Evrton boss as he prepared his squad for the trip to London to face Palace.
McCarthy's persistent injury problems have been a concern for Martinez, and for Martin O'Neill this season, as the former Wigan player has missed Ireland's last four internationals and while O'Neil still has weeks to prepare for the March clash with Poland in the Euro 2016 qualifiers, he is eager to see the midfielder build up a run of games ahead of the important qualifier in Dublin.
Gibson has also been on the sidelines with club and country this season, making just three Premier League appearances for Everton, all as a sub, and Gibson's last game any any level was in Ireland's Euro qualifying defeat away to Scotland in November.
Everton are currently just four points away from the relegation zone and face a busy schedule with the next phase of their Europa League campaign.