Belfast Telegraph

Martinez: We're ready for tough run

Everton manager Roberto Martinez is confident he has assembled a squad strong enough to cope with one of the most demanding periods the club has faced for some time.

The Toffees play seven matches in 23 days as the start of their Europa League campaign adds to fixtures in the Premier League and Capital One Cup.

Included in that run is the Merseyside derby at Anfield, a 4,000-mile round trip to Russian side Krasnodar followed by a trip to Manchester United in the space of eight days.

Despite failing to add Red Devils midfielder Tom Cleverley to his squad with a late bid on transfer deadline day, Martinez is happy with the resources at his disposal, especially with the likes of long-term injury victims Arouna Kone and Bryan Oviedo close to making their returns.

He said: "I think they (the players) are desperate to get into what we have in front of us - which is one of the most demanding experiences that we have had at Everton for a long time with the Europa League and seven games in the space of just over three weeks.

"This is a period of so many games so it is really important for the squad to be ready and available.

"I am really happy in numbers, in the quality we have and the balance we have between experience and youth and that energy you need to play three games a week, but also having enough experience around those legs to be competitive.

"I am excited how we can compete in every competition with that strong mentality in this sort of period.

"It is quite new for us to be able to cope with different competitions, a lot of travelling, facing teams like Wolfsburg, Krasnodar, and then adapting to Premier League demands.

"It is a demanding period we have been working hard towards for 12 months and we will embrace it and find out a lot about ourselves, how strong and how far we have come."

Bringing in Cleverley, whom Martinez has admired since he had him on loan at previous club Wigan, would have bolstered the midfield but they could not get a deal over the line and the 25-year-old eventually joined Aston Villa on loan.

Martinez, with the benefit of hindsight, remains philosophical about losing out though.

"On the last day of the window there are always opportunities that arise and we looked into a couple of those," he said.

"I felt it was an opportunity for us to maybe to add a player that could bring something different but at the end it wasn't right, it didn't work out and I was very pleased this time around we had all the business done well ahead of the transfer deadline.

"We tried to look into a couple of opportunities but they never came off and in reality they probably weren't the right ones for us."

On a positive note England midfielder Ross Barkley is ahead of schedule on his recovery from a knee injury but will still not be available until mid-October.

"Ross is progressing well but he is still receiving treatment and he is in week four now," added Martinez.

"He is probably a couple of weeks ahead of where he should be but he is halfway through his recovery period.

"Steven Pienaar, Arouna Kone, Bryan Oviedo and Romelu Lukaku joined the group for training today, which has been very positive.

"But Leon Osman (calf) and Samuel Eto'o (groin) picked up a couple of knocks and we will assess them over the next 48 hours."

Kone has not featured since October but played in a friendly against Stoke this week and is edging closer to a first-team return.

"Arouna played 55 minutes and it was a real positive, exactly the same as Bryan Oviedo (making his comeback from a broken leg)," said Martinez.

"They are on their way back and while it is impossible to give a date I don't think they are very far away."

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