Everton boss Roberto Martinez is keen for his players to steer the spotlight away from Steven Gerrard in this weekend’s Merseyside derby at Goodison Park.
The Barclays Premier League contest on Saturday is set to be the last meeting between the Toffees and Liverpool that Reds skipper Gerrard plays in.
But when asked for his thoughts on that and the midfielder’s decision to move to Los Angeles Galaxy at the end of the season, Martinez said: “When we play the Merseyside derby at Goodison, we want it to be our Merseyside derby and that’s the only thing we are looking at.
“As a football club, we have been in a period when we haven’t been enjoying the results that we wanted, so we will look forward to it being our Merseyside derby.”
Everton have won only one of their last 12 encounters with Liverpool and none of the last nine, although they came close to beating them at home last season when only a late Daniel Sturridge equaliser ensured Martinez’s men were held to a 3-3 draw.
Toffees striker Romelu Lukaku, who scored twice in that game, was a stand-out performer on the day.
And he is heading into this fixture – which is set to give him his 100th Premier League appearance – in decent form, having netted three times in his last five matches in all competitions to take his tally for 2014/15 to 10.
The 21-year-old Belgium international has had his detractors at times this term but Martinez has been keen to point out that in a “demanding” campaign, which followed him playing at a World Cup and has seen Everton involved in the Europa League, Lukaku has more goals for the season now than he did a year ago.
“That he is 21 and could play his 100th game in the Premier League at the weekend, it is an incredible figure,” Martinez said.
“He is in a moment where he is enjoying his football and he already has a goal more than he had last season at this stage.
“He is a player who is going to grow, and we want to go with him to reach our full potential.
“I’m very pleased with the way Romelu has been adapting in a demanding season.”
While seventh-placed Liverpool go into Saturday’s contest having lost only one of their previous 11 league games, winning seven of those including the last three, 12th-placed Everton chalked up their first victory in seven by beating Crystal Palace last time out.
Martinez believes this fixture finds both sides in good condition and is anticipating something similar to the thriller they played out at the same venue last season.
The Spaniard, who took over at Everton in the summer of 2013, said: “These derbies are special.
“When you are involved and on the inside, you understand why it’s such an incredible fixture in world football. It’s everything that you expect and more in an intense derby.
“The last derby we had at Goodison – on top of all the emotions and what it means and the rivalry in the city – was a phenomenal game with plenty of goals between two teams with a really attacking mindset.
“I do expect very much the same from two teams who are going into the game in very good moments of form.
“Liverpool have found a way of performing and are enjoying a good run, and we feel in a similar situation in terms of the confidence from the win that we had against Crystal Palace.”
Martinez expects James McCarthy to be available for Saturday’s clash and is also ready to hand Aaron Lennon a Toffees debut in the game.
Midfielder McCarthy is set to return after missing six matches with a hamstring problem, while winger Lennon is coming into the squad following his arrival on loan from Tottenham for the rest of the season on transfer deadline day.
The fixture looks to be too soon for Tim Howard (calf) to make his comeback, and Leon Osman (foot), Steven Pienaar (knee) and Tony Hibbert (unspecified) remain sidelined.