Leighton Baines will miss the next month of Everton's season after scans confirmed the Enlgand international suffered a broken toe during Saturday's Merseyside Derby. The Everton left back will spend the run up to Christmas on the bench, and Evertonians around the world will hope Baines can return in time for a congested fixture list that sees the Toffees take on Sunderland, Southampton, and Stoke City in a critical three game stretch that will do a lot to determine if Everton will continue chasing Champions League football.
Even if Baines is cleared in time for the holiday fixtures, Roberto Martinez will likely be cautious with Baines to prevent any setbacks. This might mean Baines doesn't return to full form until the New Year. While Baines is very durable, missing less than 2 games per year over the past 4 seasons, there is a need for caution given his importance in the squad.
As for replacements, Martinez has several options. The closest and really only like for like replacement would be Bryan Oviedo. The Costa Rican hasn't done much in his second season at Goodison Park, but this would be the safest switch and disrupt the starting lineup the least.
If Martinez wants to experiment he could make the switch to a 3-5-2 and Play Oviedo in an advanced winger role. Assuming Martinez is comfortable with John Stones, this wouldn't be a surprising option. The final option is to slide one of the center backs out wide. David Moyes used this with some degree of success in previous seasons when Tony Hibbert and Seamus Coleman were both out due to injury. On the left side it would be slightly more difficult, but possible for Roberto Martinez.
Regardless of the options, all eyes will be on Everton this weekend to see how they handle the loss. With draws in their last two matches, the Toffees can't afford to wait around until Baines is healthy to start winning games. They need 3 points this weekend and to continue getting three points each weekend for the rest of the season.