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Contract hope for Everton pair

Distin could yet stay at Everton. Credit: PA

Everton manager Roberto Martinez has not ruled out the prospect of Antolin Alcaraz or Sylvain Distin earning new contracts but stressed they need to prove they can still be important figures in the club's future.

Both centre-backs' current deals expire this summer and it seems highly unlikely Distin, who is 38 in December and has played more for the under-21s in the last month than he has the first team, will be retained.

Alcaraz, 33 in July, has more of a chance of securing a short-term extension as Martinez looks to strengthen and restructure his defence in the summer.

"There are only two players out of contract and we have two loan players (Aaron Lennon and Christian Atsu) and those decisions will be made when we have finished the season," said Martinez. "The next six games could have a massive bearing on that. Ninety minutes is a big opportunity to change people's views.

"All individuals will be judged over that period. In football it does not matter if you have a contract or not, you always need to improve and show the right attitude and show you are ready to be part of the future of the club.

"But when you get players at the end of their contract there are decisions to be made and it is not just the club, it is the player as well."

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Everton can cope without Lukaku - Martinez

Romelu Lukaku is a doubt for Everton. Credit: PA

Roberto Martinez admits Everton would miss Romelu Lukaku if he isn't fit to face Swansea at the weekend, but says he has the players to make up for his loss.

The Belgian was injured in the win over Southampton on Saturday and is rated as '50-50' to make the side for the upcoming game in Wales.

Romelu is a massive player for us and it would be a worry if we were not to miss him.

We need to give as much time as we can before the game on Saturday.

At the moment he is still 50-50 because it is an injury we need to make sure is 100 per cent well healed before we put him on the pitch.

It is not a major problem and he has been working well the last two days even though he hasn't joined the group yet.

The goalscoring threat Rom brings to the side is unique and we don't have a like-for-like replacement in that respect but we have other players who have shown they can bring a different way of playing and can be as effective.

– Roberto Martinez

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Naismith: Europe was tough learning curve for Everton

Steven Nasmith thinks it was tough on the continent. Credit: PA

Steven Naismith knows the club's league position isn't ideal, but feels Everton will learn from the exertions of this season.

The Toffees currently sit 12th, five points behind Stoke in tenth, with just seven games to go.

Last season we were fighting for fourth quite late in the season and we would ideally like to be doing that again but we've had the European campaign and that has been a learning curve.

To get the club to the next level you have to be able to maintain league and European form and we've not handled that as best we could this season but in the coming years hopefully we will be better for it.

We've also had injuries to key players which have not helped as well so there are few things which have contributed but we will not use any of those as an excuse.

Overall we have done well the last three weeks to get good results and it has put us in a much healthier position in the league and we can build on that in the coming weeks.

– Steven Naismith speaking to Press Association

'I'm a striker,' says Everton's Ross Barkley

Ross Barkley says he is best as a striker. Credit: PA

Everton's Ross Barkley has insisted that his best position is as a striker.

Barkley has struggled to rediscover the form which made him such an integral part of Everton's success last term and has found himself switching positions regularly.

The 21-year-old has not been given a long spell behind the centre-forward where he was most effective last season.

Many observers appear to have pencilled him in for a deeper midfield role but he does not feel that will get the best out of him.

"I'm a striker," he said. "I feel I can have my greatest impact there because I'm free to roam around the pitch, take players on, have shots and create chances."

"I just focus on getting better every day, putting things right in training and then hopefully what I'm doing right in training I'm going to show in games as well."

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