Everton would appear to be enjoying some lucky ‘breaks', with the news that Gareth Barry has not suffered one to his ankle while an international one will offer a welcome opportunity to work on the fitness of key men.
Barry lasted just 13 minutes at the Stadium of Light before tangling with Jordi Gomez and being forced from the field on a stretcher.
Quite understandably, fears were raised as to the damage suffered by the 33-year-old – a man who has emerged as an integral figure on Merseyside since arriving on an initial season-long loan from Manchester City.
The vastly-experienced England international is a reassuring figure in the middle of the park and as he was packed off to hospital for X-rays, it was suggested that a broken leg would rule him out for a prolonged period of time.
Roberto Martinez has, however, revealed that Barry’s bones remain intact and that a niggling ailment affecting fellow midfielder James McCarthy should respond positively to a period of rest – something he will get should he be pulled from the Republic of Ireland squad for forthcoming fixtures against Scotland and the USA.
Martinez said on Barry: “I am happy to confirm that it’s not the broken leg we were worried about. There is damage to the ankle which we must assess.
“There is no intent whatsoever from Gomez, it is just unfortunate. It was early on in the game and there was a lot of energy in the play. We knew he was in serious trouble when he went down.”
He added on McCarthy: “He felt his hamstring, but he wanted to stay on because we had made our three subs.
“It is a bit of a concern because he had this same injury a few weeks back, missing the game against Manchester United because of it, and it is exactly the same area. We are hoping it is fatigue rather than a soft tissue problem.”
Everton are not in action again until playing host to West Ham United on November 22, but then face a hectic run through to the end of the year.
Including the Hammers fixture, Martinez’s men face another 10 games in 2014.
Barry and McCarthy – as the heartbeat of the side – will be crucial during that run so must be handled with care over the coming weeks to ensure that their involvement is as positive as possible.
Everton do have alternative options, such as Darron Gibson and Muhamed Besic, but they will be reluctant to start shuffling their pack during the busiest, and arguably most important, period of the season.