James McCarthy ‘healed’ and ready for big derby battle

Everton boss Roberto Martinez expects Republic of Ireland midfielder James McCarthy to be available for tomorrow’s Merseyside derby — and fully fit for the rest of the season.

It had been reported Toffees midfielder McCarthy was set to miss out on the Premier League clash with Liverpool at Goodison Park having aggravated in training the hamstring problem that has restricted him to only two appearances since November and none so far in 2015.

But Martinez dismissed such talk yesterday, insisting McCarthy was “fully healed” and on course to play this weekend.The Spaniard added: “I now expect James to be clear and fully fit for the rest of the season.”

When asked about the reports of the 24-year-old having suffered a fresh setback in his rehabilitation, Martinez said: “No, he hasn’t.

“He was in hospital on Wednesday having a scan to make sure he is fully recovered and it showed he is perfectly healed. Now it is just a matter of adapting him into the match intensity, and I expect James to be available for the squad at the weekend, so it is terrific news in that respect.”

Martinez emphasised McCarthy would not need to change his playing style, and said: “What is important is that we help him as much as we can in terms of nutrition, footwear — anything that could have an effect in getting the tissues tired.

“He is a very young man still, but he is a sprinter who plays in midfield and his tissues need to be well looked after. You get those sorts of situations where at times you pick up an injury that gives you a little bit of a problem just to get rid of it.

“But I now expect James to be clear and fully fit for the rest of the season. I can see that the injury is well behind him now — we had reassurance and we look forward to seeing him back to his very best and finishing the season really strongly.”

Meanwhile, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes Everton will be delighted to see the back of Steven Gerrard. The Reds captain plays in his 33rd and final Merseyside derby at Goodison Park tomorrow before heading off to Los Angeles Galaxy in the summer. With critics writing him off earlier in the season — before he announced his move to Major League Soccer which prompted an outpouring of platitudes — he was instrumental in the 1-1 draw at Anfield in September.

He scored his 10th goal in these cross-city encounters from a free-kick and it looked like being the winner until Phil Jagielka’s thunderbolt last-minute equaliser.

Rodgers does not expect any emotion or ceremony from the 34-year-old midfielder but believes there will be plenty of rejoicing from the blue half of the city, who have taunted him mercilessly since he made his first appearance against them in April 1999.

“I am sure they will be glad to see the back of him,” said the Reds boss.

“He has been an incredible player for this club and has played in so many of the derby games and been outstanding in them.

“He will want to go into it as he does every game — he wants to win for his club and it will be no different this weekend.”

The usual build-up has been held off somewhat by Liverpool’s involvement in their midweek FA Cup fourth round replay but having only just successfully negotiated that — with two goals in the last five minutes to win 2-1 — attention can now turn to the derby.

“It is very exciting. Normally there is a build-up right the way through the week but we had our focus on the FA Cup tie but as soon as the whistle went at that game our focus was on preparation for Everton.

“I’ve been involved in a few of the games over the last two and a half years and they are wonderful games to be involved in.

“They are so fast and full of emotion and the quality of the football is outstanding under real intense pressure.”

With progress in the FA Cup, a significant upturn in their Premier League form and European football to return later this month Rodgers is optimistic they can not only finish in the top four but go even higher as well as winning some silverware.

“We just want to win the next game. That is it. If we just continue that momentum I’ll be happy,” he added.

“Of course the bigger objective is to win a trophy and finish in the top four.

“We have the European competition as well, the FA Cup that we can get to the final of, and we can challenge the top four — and not just fourth, beyond that.

“It is important we retain our focus and concentration and continue to work as hard as we are.”

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