Martinez insists Everton don't need to splash cash to match Liverpool
Everton manager Roberto Martinez has said ahead of one of the most significant Merseyside derbies in a decade that he does not need Liverpool's wealth to keep up with them.
Everton have finished ahead of Liverpool for the past two seasons, despite a wage bill half their size, but the Spaniard – who said Leighton Baines' new four-year contract was signed in the knowledge he can play Champions League football at Goodison – insisted that the financial gulf was "just figures that could be bridged".
"When you have to give different labels to different teams the budget has to play a part in that," Martinez said.
"Once the season starts it is what you do on the pitch. The finances allow you to bring certain players in. It is well-documented there are six clubs (including Liverpool) with budgets to win the league and be successful in Europe.
"You can bridge that financial gap in other ways. Young players, the loan market, playing a different way. At the start of the season you would never pick a team with a smaller budget to win the league. That wouldn't happen. Maybe you would with three games to go. That is what we are trying to do. Get in the top five, top six for the last nine games of the season."
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admitted that his side should finish ahead of Everton after two seasons behind them. "Whether it was wealth or not it wouldn't matter to me," he said. "We should be finishing above. It's easier said than done."
Rodgers expressed frustration at Liverpool's loss of target Mohamed Salah to Chelsea, but offered a different interpretation to his managing director Ian Ayre as to why the offer of £15m plus add-ons for the 21-year-old proved unsuccessful, after lengthy negotiations.
Rodgers said: "We couldn't do a deal and Chelsea could. So the boy has gone." Ayre said: "We haven't been held back from concluding a deal. The player decided he didn't want to come to Liverpool. We know what the value of the player is and how far we were prepared to go. That is something myself, Brendan and others involved in the process discuss openly. We won't over-pay. In every transfer window you win some and lose some."
Martinez welcomed his own target Lacina Traore to Finch Farm yesterday, though a problem with his hamstring suggests the 6ft 8in striker signed on loan from Monaco will not play a part tonight.
Defensive problems may demand that John Stones partners Johnny Heitinga in Everton's central defence, while Rodgers, also struggling with defensive injuries, said Joe Allen was a doubt.
Martinez, whose sixth-placed side are a point and two places below Liverpool, said Baines had chosen an Everton future above Manchester United because he "understands that as a club we're ready to kick on and ready to challenge for big things. You look at the points tally in the league and it'll give you a clear indication that we're not far off and that makes it something that's worth committing to. I think Leighton is a very intelligent man but he's also an old-fashioned footballer who wants to be loyal." (© Independent News Service)