Everton will be without captain Phil Jagielka for up to four weeks because of a hamstring strain.
And manager Roberto Martinez confirmed that the England international is likely to be out for the majority of January -- when Everton face Stoke, QPR, Norwich and West Bromwich Albion -- while indicating he could be back in time for the Merseyside derby on Jan. 28.
He said: “It was at the end of the game against Sunderland. It is a soft-tissue injury. It could be up to four weeks but knowing Jags he will be back earlier. It is just the accumulation of games.”
Jagielka, who had been an ever-present in the Premier League, was replaced against Southampton by Antolin Alcaraz, who made his debut after his summer move from Wigan.
And Martinez praised the Paraguayan, adding: “I was very impressed with Antolin. I know the player inside out. His biggest strength is how he reads the game. The partnership with Sylvain [Distin, the other centre-back] was always right.”
Martinez also gave a first Premier League start to another former Wigan player, goalkeeper Joel Robles, who deputised for the suspended Tim Howard.
The Everton manager exonerated his fellow Spaniard for Gaston Ramirez’s equaliser, saying: “Joel is blaming himself. I don’t think that is the case. You watch the replay and you think the goalkeeper should have it.
“When you watch it live, you should blame the people who hit the footballs. They swerve everywhere. Gaston Ramirez hit it really well. I thought Joel had a really good game. It was a very good debut.”
Everton reached the mid-way point of the season with 37 points and are on course for their highest ever tally in the Premier League era.
But Martinez said: “I think we can improve. Thirty-seven points is an outstanding return halfway through. We have had two defeats and the draws have been more unfair draws than lucky ones.”