Everton latest: Martinez compares Lukaku to Messi, Mirallas looks ahead

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Everton edged out West Ham in a closely contested 1-0 win on Saturday, and manager Roberto Martinez praised his loan players Gareth Barry, Gerard Deulofeu and of course striker Romelu Lukaku, whose goal secured the victory over the Hammers - even comparing Lukaku to Lionel Messi, saying the Belgian is 'irreplaceable'.

"All I want for the boys that we have on loan is that they have an incredible experience as players," said Martinez. "Some of the young ones just to develop, Gareth just to have a real enjoyment and create memories for the future. The loan market is very important for us. If we can keep those players great, if not then we will have to use the loan market again."

The Everton boss added that Lukaku's absence from the Toffees' starting line-up is similar to how Barcelona cope without Messi: "Lukaku is an irreplaceable footballer and that is a reality. Barcelona are one of the best teams in the world but when they have not got Messi, the team suffers."

Whilst Barry has been linked with a permanent move to Goodison Park from Manchester City, Lukaku and Deulofeu are almost certainly going to be playing their football elsewhere next season, and one player who has been linked with a switch to Merseyside is Sunderland's Jack Colback.

The 24-year-old has featured prominently under Gus Poyet at both left back and in midfield, and has turned down several contract offers to stay at the Stadium of Light, meaning he would be available for free at the end of the season - which has reportedly caught the eye of Martinez.

Meanwhile, Everton travel to Arsenal at weekend to play their FA Cup quarter-final, and winger Kevin Mirallas believes that it's the biggest game of the season for the Toffees.

"The FA Cup game at Arsenal is the most important game of Everton's season," Mirallas says. "The FA Cup is a great trophy for the team and for the club. It's crucial for us."

"I can feel the passion within Everton in trying to win the FA Cup," added Mirallas. "I've spoken to the English players and they've told me how important it is. The likes of Leighton Baines and Tony Hibbert, players who are from Liverpool and who are supporters of this club, have made sure of that."

The former Lille and Olympiacos man also suggested that the Everton squad are more content to be playing away at the Emirates Stadium than hosting a struggling side as they did last year - when they lost to Wigan.

"Last season when we were drawn at home to Wigan at this stage of the season, people were saying it was going to be easy because they were near the bottom of the Premier League, so maybe it's better that we're playing Arsenal. We will be really motivated to play against them."

image: © Ben Sutherland

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