Everton manager Roberto Martinez has backed Muhamed Besic to fill the gap of suspended Gareth Barry ahead of the visit of Arsenal on Saturday (19 March). The Spanish boss, meanwhile, has claimed that Bryan Oviedo remains doubt for the game but playing down concerns about his potential absentee after Leighton Baines excelled during the FA Cup victory over Chelsea on weekend as his replacement.
Barry has been a fundamental player for Martinez through the season, with recent stats revealing that despite his age the 35-year-old midfielder is the behind just Bournemouth's Andrew Surman in terms of distance covered in the Premier League this season. But the Toffess will miss him for the next two games after he was suspended for picking up a red card during the controversial FA Cup victory over Chelsea.
Martinez said in his press conference ahead of the game: "I think it's an interesting stat. I don't think many people would come up with that through watching Gareth, but it's not just the amount of running he does, it's how clever he is with tactical positioning, covering other players and being able to read the game so well. At the age of 35, to be able to have the physicality he does is impressive.
"Of course, we are going to miss him now he is suspended. He's one of two players who have been ever-present in the Premier League this season. But we're going to use this period of his suspension, with an international break in the middle, to give him a proper break to make sure he is as strong as he can be for the final part of the campaign. I think we will get the rewards from that."
The former Wigan manager, nevertheless, believes that Besic is ready to cope with Barry's absence after he also recently returned to action from an injury. "We all know Mo had a good period when he was fully fit, he was at a good level," he said. "He's shown no signs of reaction and is ready. It is a good opportunity for him to step up into the team."
Oviedo, meanwhile, missed the FA Cup win over Chelsea due to a chest infection. Martinez said that the Costa Rica international has already been training with the group but having lost a "considerable amount of weight" he is yet to know whether he will be available to face Arsenal.
"Bryan has lost a considerable amount of weight but has been given the all clear." he said. "He has been training and I hope for him to rejoin the full group on Friday when we'll have a better idea [if he can play on Saturday]."
The manager, nevertheless, is not worried about the gap in the left-back role after Baines enjoyed an impressive performance against the Blues, in his first starting appearance in six weeks following an ongoing ankle issue. "I think we've found the right solution for Leighton and it's great to see him free and performing the way he was on Saturday," Martinez said.
Meanwhile, Kevin Mirallas is also out due to suspension while the boss failed to update the injury situation of Darron Gibson and Tony Hibbert.
Martinez, furthermore, was full of praise to Arsene Wenger during the press conference while claiming that the Gunners are still in contention to win the Premier League title, despite they fact they are 11 points behind Leicester City.
"They are a team, who in my eyes, are still in with a real good opportunity to win the league," he said. "I know a lot has been said about Leicester, and rightly so, because of the distance they have. The five-point lead they have at this moment is a huge gap, but with the three-point system, the gap is smaller than you think. I feel Arsenal are still strong title contenders and that's what we're going to be facing at Goodison."