Belfast Telegraph

Martinez: Every game is a final

Boss Roberto Martinez feels Everton have "10 finals" ahead of them in the Barclays Premier League - but has emphasised that the focus for now must be on Thursday's Europa League last-16 first leg against Dynamo Kiev.

Martinez has accepted that his team - 14th in the Premier League, six points clear of the relegation zone with just 28 from 28 games - are in a survival fight on the domestic front.

However, the Spaniard wants all thoughts of that to be put to one side by his players when they host Ukrainian league leaders Dynamo on Thursday evening, stressing the need for each challenge Everton have between now and the end of the season to be approached "in isolation".

Martinez, who guided the Merseyside outfit to a fifth-placed top-flight finish last season in his first campaign in charge of them, said: "We know the severity of the situation in the league.

"We have 10 games to go, and we will take that as 30 points to fight for and 10 finals.

"But the only focus for now is Dynamo.

"We don't want to take things lightly. The last time we were involved at this stage was 2008.

"You should not underestimate how much work has been put in over the last 16 months to get into this position. So we must focus on this tie, and the home leg, which is vital.

"European football is something we want at Everton.

"I think we have enough quality and experience to understand that tomorrow we need to make it a big European night at Goodison, and then the responsibility in the dressing room will be to get ready after that for the next game (the Premier League home game against Newcastle on Sunday).

"One competition should not get in the way of the other."

While in Europe Everton have won five of eight individual games and lost only one this term, in the league they have triumphed just once in their last 12 fixtures and been beaten in seven of those.

Toffees goalkeeper Tim Howard has suggested a key factor in the domestic struggles has been that the team have lost the element of surprise they had when Martinez first came to the club.

The manager, meanwhile, says other sides learning to show Everton more "respect" has had a role - although he is not looking to make excuses.

"I don't think it is such a thing as 'working a team out', but I think it is true we have had a lot of respect (from other teams) this season in a football way," Martinez said.

"Teams come to Goodison very wary of what we can do.

"It has been a very difficult season in which to get back-to-back results and develop good momentum.

"But now, the time for talking about the season is over."

Everton defender John Stones (virus) and midfielder Leon Osman (knock) will be assessed ahead of Thursday's game.

Christian Atsu, recently out due to illness, could return to action with fellow winger Aaron Lennon (cup-tied) unavailable, while Leighton Baines (thigh), Bryan Oviedo (hamstring), Tony Hibbert, Steven Pienaar and Aiden McGeady (all knee) remain sidelined.

Dynamo go into the contest amid reports suggesting Arsenal are interested in their Austria centre-back Aleksandar Dragovic.

When asked about such talk, Dynamo boss Sergei Rebrov said: "You are asking about one of the best players in my team and I don't want to lose this player.

"He is a top-class player and I hope he will stay with us."

As well as turning out for Dynamo and Ukraine in his playing days, Rebrov was also a striker for Tottenham and West Ham.

And the 40-year-old added: "Of course I am still following Tottenham, West Ham - all the teams I played for.

"I'm glad because I think Tottenham are getting better. (Spurs striker) Harry Kane is a very good forward, scoring not just lots but some very important goals.

"I'm also very pleased for my good friend Tim Sherwood (his former Tottenham team-mate), who is doing a good job as Aston Villa manager.

"The Premier League is always interesting for me, whether you are playing in it or just watching it. And it is a very hard league."

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