Belfast Telegraph

Martinez ready to knuckle down

Roberto Martinez stressed Everton will "give their lives" to get as many points as possible between now and the end of the season after their 2-0 loss at Stoke.

The Merseyside outfit are 14th in the Barclays Premier League, only six points above the relegation zone, with 28 points from 28 fixtures.

The defeat at the Britannia Stadium was the seventh in their last 12 top-flight matches, a sequence which has featured only one win and none in the last five games.

Toffees fans might be starting to get concerned about the prospect of a real battle to beat the drop.

But manager Martinez - whose side have thrived in the Europa League this term in contrast to their domestic struggles - insists he and his players are not looking down the league table.

Asked about the fear of being dragged into a relegation fight, the Spaniard said: "It is not about fear.

"We have a real strong sense of responsibility and we want to win games.

"We have a very talented squad and we have incredible characters who understand what is needed to perform well and win football games.

"We have 10 games left and 30 points to fight for, and we are going to give our lives to get as many as we can."

Asked if Everton were too good to go down, Martinez said: "No, but we are a team very confident in the talent we have, which had a terrific season in the last campaign (when they finished fifth).

"Everything you want in a football team is there - what we want is games and a bit of a positive feeling.

"We are not looking down. We haven't got the amount of points we wanted, but it has been very small margins and we are looking forward to the next 10 games.

"We will face the challenge straight on. We want to get as many points as we can."

Everton were put to the sword on Wednesday by a superb Victor Moses header in the 32nd minute and rebound effort six minutes from time from Mame Biram Diouf, who slotted in after fellow substitute Marko Arnautovic had hit the post.

Martinez's men failed to muster much in response and he suggested the amount of games they have had to cope with of late - including a two-legged Europa League last-32 victory against Young Boys - had taken its toll.

"We didn't show enough cutting edge," Martinez said.

"I did feel we had a lot of character, gave a lot of effort and everything we had, but probably it showed that it was our fifth game in two weeks.

"Now what we need is a proper opportunity for our players to recover, and then we will face the challenge that we have on - 10 (more league) games, six of those at Goodison Park, and trying to get some positive momentum."

Meanwhile, Martinez thinks Everton's England full-back Leighton Baines (thigh) may still be unavailable for next Thursday's Europa League last-16 first leg against Dynamo Kiev, but is confident he will be available for the Premier League clash with Newcastle three days later.

Things are looking very positive for Stoke, who have won their last three league matches, seven of their last 11, and are now up to eighth in the table on 42 points.

The Potters are looking to better their Premier League club record set last term of a ninth-placed finish and total of 50 points, which certainly appears achievable - and their fans may even be wondering about a push for Europe.

Manager Mark Hughes said: "I was delighted. Three wins in a row, two successive clean sheets. I couldn't ask for anything else.

"We are ahead of where we thought we'd be. We are eighth at the moment and we'd love to finish the season in that position if we can.

"We are now above (10th-placed) West Ham, who have had an outstanding season. At one stage we were many points behind them and we have been able to catch up and overcome them, so it shows the run we have been on.

"Given the amount of injuries we've had to deal with, we've done remarkably well to be where we are at the moment.

"The key for us is that we are still progressing from last year, even under difficult circumstances."

Stoke did suffer another injury setback on Wednesday, with defender Philipp Wollscheid having to be withdrawn early on due to a groin problem he sustained in the warm-up.

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