Everton’s reported deal for Leeds United right-back Sam Byram - agreed for a fee thought to be just under £4 million - could not have come at a better time for the Toffees.
With Seamus Coleman still out for a period of up to three weeks, Byram could find himself straight in the starting eleven if the paperwork is pushed through in time for the clash with Swansea City at Goodison Park on the 24th.
However, it is highly unlikely the deal will be finalised in time for Saturday’s match against Chelsea, leaving manager Roberto Martinez to decide whether to continue with John Stones as a makeshift full-back.
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Coleman, who is one of Everton’s key players both defensively and going forward, picked up a calf injury in the 2-1 win over Manchester City in the Capital One Cup semi-final first leg.
Youngster Tyias Browning, who has filled in for Coleman before - most notably when he made his debut at Anfield last term - is out for the season after undergoing knee surgery. One team man and club legend Tony Hibbert made his last appearance on December 6, 2014, also ruling him out of contention.
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Catalan Martinez opted to select left-footed Bryan Oviedo for the FA Cup victory against Dagenham and Redbridge, who reminded fans of the quality his set piece delivery, putting a chance on a plate for Arouna Kone who headed Everton in front.
However, with left-footed Brendan Galloway and Ramiro Funes Mori, also in the eleven, the defence had a somewhat lopsided look and feel.
In the 0-0 draw against Manchester City on Wednesday - the second of three matches between the two sides in three weeks - John Stones was deployed in Coleman’s absence.
This was facilitated by Phil Jagielka’s Premier League return after a long spell on the sidelines. Despite a clean sheet, many critics argued that Stones was lucky not to give away a last minute penalty after he appeared to trip Raheem Sterling in the box.
Stones is thoroughly confident carrying the ball out of the centre of defence but did not provide an overlap for Gerard Deulofeu as often as Coleman would. This meant the tired-looking Spaniard was by no means as effective as he has been in recent weeks and was unable to link up well enough with in-form striker Romelu Lukaku.
One issue for Martinez is that Byram will be cup-tied for the crucial second leg clash with Man City after coming off the bench in the first round of the competition.
This means the Leeds man may well have to wait for a debut if Martinez chooses to continue with Stones on the right and Jagielka and Mori in the middle. This would arguably allow the Everton skipper to forge a better working relationship with the Argentine as they have spent little time as a centre-back pairing to date.
Whatever selection issues Martinez faces, the Everton faithful will hope they can put in a similar performance to Wednesday’s at the Etihad on January 27 as they look to go a step closer to being able to celebrate a first trophy in 21 years.
If they succeed in Manchester, it will be Everton’s first Wembley final since the defeat to Chelsea in the 2009 FA Cup.
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