Everton manager Roberto Martinez has leapt to the defence of James McCarthy by rejecting suggestions that the midfielder's tackle on West Ham United star Dimitri Payet earlier in the season was malicious, as quoted by the Liverpool Echo.
McCarthy picked up a yellow card when the two teams met at Upton Park in November for a foul on Payet which saw the French star forced off soon after with an ankle injury.
Payet ultimately missed around two months of the season after being sidelined with the problem, and Slaven Bilic said after the match that it was a "nasty" tackle which should not have been allowed.
However, Martinez has refuted that claim and says that there was never any malicious or dangerous intent from the Toffees midfielder.
The Spanish boss said, according to quotes in the Echo: "We’ve moved on from that. It is great to see Dmitri Payet back fit and playing, you don’t want to see players out injured.
"But in the same way, James is an honest footballer, it was nothing malicious and those incidents happen. It happened to us with Tom Cleverley and Eric Dier at Spurs.
"This is the nature of this league, it is a committed league and every ball is a challenge and everyone will fight for the ball but in an honest manner and that is the way I saw it. That reaction was maybe down to the frustration of losing an important player, I think, deep down, everyone knew it was an honest challenge to get the ball."
The teams meet for the second time this season on Saturday with both having secured three points in midweek as Everton won 3-1 at bottom side Aston Villa and West Ham triumphed over London rivals and title challengers Tottenham Hotspur with a 1-0 victory at Upton Park.
The Toffees are five places and eight points behind the Hammers, but could move as high as eighth with a victory at Goodison Park.