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 By Mike Whalley

Antolin Alcaraz suffers new setback

Everton defender Antolin Alcaraz is facing another four weeks out of action after suffering a setback in his recovery from a hernia.

Antolin Alcaraz has endured a frustrating start to his Everton career.
Antolin Alcaraz has endured a frustrating start to his Everton career.

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The Paraguay centre-back signed a two-year deal at Goodison Park in the summer after his contract at Wigan expired, but his only appearance for Everton so far was a 45-minute run-out in a 4-1 pre-season friendly win at Accrington in July.

The 31-year-old struggled with injuries at Wigan last season, with a groin problem sustained last September keeping him out until February, and a torn hamstring forcing him to miss a chunk of the run-in as the club were relegated from the Premier League.

Manager Roberto Martinez had hoped that Alcaraz would become available for selection this coming week, but will have to wait until the end of October.

Martinez said: “We expected Antolin to be back this week, but in training he had a little bit of a setback, and now it’s probably going to be delayed for another three to four weeks. It was just a groin problem. He felt his groin in one of the training sessions. He had a few problems in those areas last season, but it is the other side this time.

“We need to understand the frustration that we have now, but we’re going to have a fully-fit Antolin for the final two-thirds of the season. That excites me.

“Nothing is more frustrating than injuries. As a player, you can cope with any sort of disappointment; if you’re not in the team, if you’re not performing well -- there is always that opportunity to go out and train the next morning.

“When you are a little bit out of that day-to-day work in the dressing room, you just don’t feel like a footballer, and that can be quite difficult. And when you arrive at a new club, you want to have that feeling of being able to compete and show what you can do.

“But Antolin is a fighter, he’s a leader. He’s been through many, many situations. We are excited about seeing the best of Antolin in the next four weeks, which I do feel now we will be able to do. There’s frustration on one side, but we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Martinez is also likely to be without midfielder Steven Pienaar for Monday night’s Premier League home game against Newcastle, as Everton defend the top flight’s only remaining unbeaten record.

The former South Africa captain has missed Everton’s last three matches with a hamstring problem.

Striker Arouna Kone is available after recovering from a knee problem, while midfielder Leon Osman is set to return from a groin injury. Both players sat out Tuesday night’s 2-1 Capital One Cup third-round defeat at Fulham.

Darron Gibson played 69 minutes at Craven Cottage, in what was his first appearance of the season after recovering from knee trouble, and is in contention for a place. Fellow midfielder Gareth Barry, meanwhile, will become only the tenth player to make 500 Premier League appearances if he features.

Martinez said: “I don’t think there are many more significant records than that. I think that represents his professionalism, the way he looks after himself, the way he sees the game, the experience that he brings into any side.”

Teenager Ross Barkley, an unused substitute at Fulham, is hoping to regain his place against Newcastle, having started all five of Everton’s Premier League games so far.

But Barkley, who made his England debut earlier this month, is walking a disciplinary tightrope, having collected three bookings in his last four league appearances. Two more yellow cards in domestic games before December 31 would bring him a one-match ban.

Martinez said: “Those three yellow cards are not down to his make-up. He’s not that sort of player. I think it’s more about him adjusting to being an important player in any squad. As a young player, when you get into the starting 11, you want to make sure you keep your place and show that you bare eager to help the team. Sometimes, you can overdo things.”

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