Sport Soccer

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Rom's on a roll - Martinez

Romelu Lukaku, pictured, impressed Roberto Martinez in Switzerland
Romelu Lukaku, pictured, impressed Roberto Martinez in Switzerland

Everton boss Roberto Martinez has challenged Romelu Lukaku to build on his Europa League hat-trick when the Toffees return to domestic action against Leicester on Sunday.

Everton's record signing has not hit the heights he achieved on loan at Goodison Park last season but put in his best performance of the current campaign with three goals in a 4-1 victory over Young Boys on Thursday night.

It was not just Lukaku's goals, which took his tally for the season to 13, that pleased Martinez but his all-round contribution.

The Spaniard described Lukaku's performance as demonstrating he is a "perfect Everton ambassador" following comments attributed to the former Chelsea striker last week that he would like to "eventually arrive at a top club again", which upset some Toffees fans.

Martinez, who said the quotes had been taken out of context, said: "As a striker you need to be fed with goals, otherwise you don't feel well.

"It's exactly the same for a defender. You want to feel the clean sheet and feel that solid outlook in your play.

"I thought Romelu was unstoppable at times. It wasn't just scoring the hat-trick, it was creating the amount of chances that we created as a team and he was always in the right place with the right run.

"He could easily have scored six. Probably he scored the hardest chances out of all the good opportunities we created.

"But what pleases me is the responsibility that he took. He led the line fantastically well, the combination play in front of their goal was based around him, and that chemistry with the players around him pleased me a lot.

"It's important that Rom now carries on at this level, because physically he's capable of doing that."

Everton have won only one of their last 11 domestic games and scored just once in four matches.

There will be pressure for both those statistics to change on Sunday with bottom club Leicester the visitors to Goodison Park.

The Foxes have lost their last four matches, but Martinez said: "We know full well that in our league nothing is given.

"Leicester have been very competitive this season. I don't think the points they have now is a true reflection of what they've done. It's going to be a really difficult game but you don't expect anything different."

Everton will be without suspended midfielder Gareth Barry, who was sent off in last week's 1-0 defeat by Chelsea, but James McCarthy is now fit enough to play twice in a week after persistent hamstring problems.

Leighton Baines is expected to return after missing three games with a minor knee problem. It should be a straight swap at left-back for Bryan Oviedo, who felt his hamstring in the win over Young Boys.

Leicester boss Nigel Pearson has made it clear he will "live and die" by his decisions, but is adamant self-interest will not cloud his judgement.

With the Foxes rooted to the foot of the Premier League and five points adrift of safety prior to Saturday's matches, Pearson is firmly in the firing line.

Earlier this month it appeared as if Pearson had been axed, only for confusion to reign and the 51-year-old to seemingly be reinstated in a matter of hours.

Pearson concedes he is doing all he can to keep the club in the top flight, that he is taking advice from those around him, and despite the way it appears at times is far from ploughing a belligerent lone furrow.

"Regardless of what other people think, myself and the staff are certainly not above self-analysis. Of course we look at everything we do," insisted Pearson.

"Sometimes there are going to be decisions with hindsight you might want to change, but I will live and die by the decisions I make.

"I make them for whatever I feel are the right reasons for us. I am not, nor ever will be, in the self-preservation game.

"My job is to lead my staff and players in a way I feel is fitting for us and our football club, so if criticism comes my way then fair enough.

"I've never been a big believer in patting myself on the back, nor in worrying about personal criticism.

"It goes with the territory, with the type of industry we are in, and you have to remember it's an emotional game.

"I fully understand people's frustrations, but I can assure you we continue to work as hard as we can to change our fortunes.

"And what has to happen is we stay very much behind the players as they are the people who who are going to head out on the field and hopefully get us enough results to change our fortunes."

On-loan centre-back Robert Huth, cup-tied for the clash at Villa, is available to Pearson.

The Leicester boss is likely to pair Huth and Matthew Upson together for the first time with the latter now playing after recovering from a long-term injury.

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