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We can stop Sunderland sealing their survival: Martinez

By Eleanor Crooks

Published 11/05/2016

Everton manager Roberto Martinez
Everton manager Roberto Martinez

Roberto Martinez is expecting a positive reaction from his Everton players when they face Sunderland at the Stadium of Light tonight.

Having at last had a positive result to cheer with victory over Bournemouth, Everton's season hit a new low when they were outplayed in a 3-1 loss to champions Leicester on Saturday.

The Foxes had been celebrating all week and could have been forgiven for being below their best but Everton never seriously threatened.

Martinez's men will have a say in matters at the bottom of the table tonight, with victory for Sunderland enough to keep them up and relegate Norwich and Newcastle, but the Toffees boss was keen to reassure fans of the Magpies and Canaries that he expects a much-improved performance.

The Canaries play Watford tonight knowing a Black Cats victory would send them down, and their manager Alex Neil has revealed he will consider his position at the end of the season, saying: "I'll speak to the powers that be but I don't think anything is ever off the table."

Toffees boss Martinez said: "We all have a strong desire to get back to our best level and tomorrow is the opportunity we have to show that.

"It's a huge, huge game - not just because of what Sunderland are playing for. I think the integrity of the Premier League has always been the strongest of any league in Europe, and from our point of view it's about reacting from our performance against Leicester. Nothing else."

Sunderland have hit form at just the right time, taking eight points from their last four games. They go into tonight's match on a high after Saturday's 3-2 victory over Chelsea.

Sam Allardyce has hailed the togetherness of his players, while rumours persist about to what degree Everton's squad are pulling for their manager, but Martinez, in an unusually brief press conference, again insisted there are no problems on that score, saying: "It's no such thing as winning the players back."

Everton's cause has not been helped by the goals drying up for leading scorer Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian netted 25 times in his first 37 appearances of the season for the Toffees but has drawn a blank in the last eight matches.

Rumours persist about a move for the 22-year-old this summer, but Martinez insisted Lukaku has not had his head turned.

"I don't think he's a player that's going to get affected by speculation," said Martinez. "It's the first time he has to cope with 47 games in a season. At 22, you're still working out how to cope with the intensity."

Belfast Telegraph

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