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International Blues


Dean Mouhtaropoulos

After a disappointing stalemate away to Crystal Palace, it might be considered a good time to have an international break for the Toffees. However with a Merseyside derby looming, Blues’ fans will be worrying about players staying injury free rather than how well they are doing for their countries. The previous international break resulted in the long term injury of influential midfielder Darron Gibson, only furthering the anxiety of Everton supporters.

Most Blues’ players on international duty play tonight, however four Everton players were in action last night. In a surprising home defeat for Belgium, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas entered the fray in the 59th minute. They could not absolve a 2-0 defeat to Radamel Falcao’s Columbia but the good news for Everton fans is that both came through their 30 minutes unscathed. A little closer to home and England U21s demolished Finland U21s in an impressive 3-0 home victory. John Stones completed the 90 minutes for England’s young guns at centre half. The most impressive out of the four was a man of the match performance from Gerard Deulofeu for Spain U21s in a 6-1 thrashing of Bosnia U21s. Deulofeu, only adding support for the call for him to start in the Merseyside derby next week, won a penalty, hit the post, assisted and scored a 69th minute penalty for the visitors as well as being involved in two more goals of the Spanish rout.

The Croatia squad, including Nikica Jelavic, have travelled to Iceland for their first leg play-off to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Brazil. It is Niko Kovač’s first game as Croatia manager but with Mario Manzukic in the squad Jelavic is not expected to start. Across the Irish Sea, Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy are likely to start in Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane’s first game in charge of the Republic of Ireland at home to Latvia. At Wembley, England face Chile and with a lot of talk about three players from Southampton in the squad, it will be the three from Everton that Roberto Martinez and Toffees’ fans are looking out for. With Roy Hodgson expressing that Leighton Baines and Ashley Cole will complete one game each and Phil Jagielka becoming a regular England centre back, it only leaves wonder to whether Ross Barkley will earn his second cap either tonight or Tuesday.

Up in the highlands two Everton players will represent their countries at Hampden Park in a fixture between Scotland and the United States of America. It is likely that USA boss Jürgen Klinsmann will stick with Tim Howard in goal and Steven Naismith is also in-line to start after impressive performances for the Tartan Army this season. Tomorrow at midday, English time, Holland are away to Japan and the forgotten man – for Everton at least, John Heitinga is in the squad he and will be accumulating excessive air miles when returning to England next week.

On Monday, Gerard Deulofeu and his fellow Spain U21s will face Albania U21s away at 1pm, English time. The following day Croatia and Nikica Jelavic will play the second leg of their World Cup playoff at home to Iceland. Before that at 8:30am, English time, Costa Rica are the visitors to Australia under new manager Ange Postecoglou with Blues’ favourite Tim Cahill in the Ozzie squad; with Bryan Oviedo likely to start he will be another Everton player clocking up the air miles during this break. At 6pm, Scotland are away to Norway with Steven Naismith to be a likely starter. As is John Stones for England U21s as they play hosts to San Marino U21s at the same time. Heitinga will then face Columbia when Holland entertains the likes of Falcao fresh from their win at Belgium. At 7:45pm, English time, USA and the Republic of Ireland are away to Austria and Poland respectively. Fifteen minutes later Belgium kick-off at home to Japan and an old rivalry is renewed when England host Germany.

With so many of Everton’s players away on international it obviously shows the signs of the progression the club has made as well as the quality of the squad. However that progression can come at a price when injuries occur to players representing their countries. With one of the closest derby encounters fast approaching the Toffees need all of their players returning to fully fit but if those players that are away are in good form for their countries they will be high in confidence for next week’s encounter.