Everton vs Leicester City
King Power Stadium
Ross Barkley: Out. Barkley suffered a leg injury in training on Friday and is expected to be out up to two months.
Arouna Kone: Out. Kone is still not fully fit following knee surgery last October.
Bryan Oviedo: Out. Oviedo is still not fully fit following his broken leg in January.
Romelu Lukaku: GTD. Lukaku will be “assessed” prior to kickoff. He’s being eased back into match fitness following his post-World Cup layoff. Expectations have changed this week, and it’s possible Lukaku could see up to 45 minutes of game action, although Martinez is probably hoping to spare his star striker.
Kevin Mirallas: GTD. Mirallas will also be “assessed” prior to kickoff. He’s being eased back into match fitness. Like Lukaku, expectations have changed this week, and Mirallas, too, could see more game time than Martinez initially would have liked.
Seamus Coleman: GTD. Coleman will be evaluated prior to kickoff. He’s still recovering from the hamstring injury he suffered during preseason.
Christian Atsu: GTD. Atsu only arrived midweek, so it’s difficult to expect much from the winger so soon. Still, Martinez will evaluate his readiness prior to kickoff.
Ross Barkley’s shock injury is a massive blow to the club, and leaves the squad woefully short of attacking options to start the season. It’s possible only Steven Naismith, Steven Pienaar, Aiden McGeady, Leon Osman and Chris Long are the only fit attackers available for the match.
How Martinez lines up his squad will be significant and revealing. McGeady, Osman, and Pienaar playing behind Naismith won’t blow anyone away, but they might just have enough skill and guile to get the job done against Leicester. Martinez could also opt to utilize Mume Besic alongside James McCarthy and Gareth Barry for a flat three in midfield, with only three attackers up front.
Worth watching is Darron Gibson. In preseason last year, Martinez experimented with Gibson behind the striker. It wasn’t a natural fit, but it’s something Martinez could try if he’s desperate.
Also worth watching:
Leicester dominated the Championship last season, finishing 17 points to the good in the race for promotion. Curiously, they opted for minimal changes to their squad, with Argentine striker Leonardo Ulloa their only big addition. The Foxes’ full fixture list will reveal just how good their promoted side are, but Everton will be the first to test their mettle. No doubt both players and fans alike will come out ready for the match.
Result needed for a Champions League spot:
Three points. Even with a limited squad, Everton must beat the Premier League new boys. Their top of the table rivals all will.