Belfast Telegraph

Defensive duo back for Everton

Everton defenders Antolin Alcaraz and Leighton Baines return from suspension and injury respectively to face Manchester City at Goodison Park.

Midfielder James McCarthy's long-term hamstring complaint continues to be assessed after playing just twice in six weeks and he will miss out again.

Centre-back Sylvain Distin (groin) is added to the already extensive injury list which includes goalkeeper Tim Howard (calf), defender Tony Hibbert and midfielders Leon Osman (foot), Darron Gibson (knee) and Steven Pienaar (knee).

Everton drew with West Ham in the FA Cup in midweek but they are looking to avoid a fifth successive league defeat on Saturday.

This is their worst sequence in the league since they lost six on the trot in 2005, and the visit of City presents a real threat to the confidence gained from the West Ham result.

"It is one of those games where we need to take responsibility," boss Roberto Martinez said.

"We are at home, we have had four really bad results and we need to put that right.

"It doesn't matter which opposition you are playing against you need to look at what we can do and we are looking to carry on the signs we showed against West Ham.

"When you play a team like City, you know you have to be at your very best because they will always take their opportunities, but the way we performed at the Etihad (in a 1-0 defeat) deserved more than we got and I think we are ready to face a team like City.

"But the margin of error against these sides is very small."

City have been boosted by the return from injury of Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Vincent Kompany.

Top scorer Aguero limped off in tears early on in City's win over the same opponents a month ago with a knee injury and returns ahead of schedule.

Fellow striker Dzeko (calf) and captain Kompany (calf/hamstring) have also been sidelined for around a month. City will, though, be without key midfielder Yaya Toure as he prepares for the African Nations Cup.

Boss Manuel Pellegrini has backed Everton to emerge from their slump soon.

He said: "Maybe it is a surprise because they are a very good team with good players. Last season they had a very good season.

"I think Roberto Martinez is a good manager with a lot of experience here in England but things happen. I am sure at the end of the season they will be in a very good place."

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