Ross Barkley is playing on through pain to help Everton’s bid for Champions League football, but it won’t damage his England ambitions, insists Roberto Martinez.
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Barkley has not completely recovered from a fractured toe sustained during the 4-0 FA Cup third-round victory over Queens Park Rangers on Jan. 4.
The 20-year-old was rushed back for the Premier League derby against Liverpool on Jan. 28, a game Everton lost 4-0, and has played twice more since, but has yet to complete a full 90 minutes since his return.
As he battles the injury, Barkley is struggling to regain the form that propelled him into the England squad earlier this season.
The midfielder is not having any pain-killing injections to reduce his discomfort, and Martinez must decide how to use him over a busy next few days, with Everton hosting Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Wednesday and Swansea in the FA Cup on Sunday.
But the Everton manager is adamant that Barkley will be ready to play for England in a friendly against Denmark at Wembley on Mar. 5.
"Ross will be up to speed by then," he told the Daily Express. "I’m just trying to protect him through the next two games this week. We have Crystal Palace and the FA Cup.
"I expect he will be 100 percent against Chelsea [in the Premier League on Feb. 22] and moving on from then. For the friendly on Mar. 5, if he is required, he will be back to his normal self."
Barkley has established himself as a regular in Everton’s side this season, having been a fringe player under previous boss David Moyes.
And Martinez is keen to ensure the Liverpool-born midfielder is fully fit as soon as possible.
"He is not 100 percent yet," the manager said.
"It is still giving him a little bit of discomfort and we have to measure it. He is such an enthusiastic player, he won’t tell you that it is hurting him as he wants to be available and play.
"It’s just certain aspects when he pushes from the ground there is a sharp pain and that stops him thinking on the ball and instead on his foot. That takes time. He is not 100 percent in terms of match fitness and sharpness on the ball.
"I know it will take a little bit of time to get him back to 100 percent. It’s just certain things -- when he pushes from the ground, there is a sharp pain and that stops him thinking on the ball.
"You could get rid of the feeling by taking a little injection but we don’t want to do that. It’s better to do it naturally.
"He is not 100 percent in terms of match fitness and sharpness on the ball.
"But I think England will get a player that is refreshed and will finish the season really strong. It won’t affect him at all. He is growing from a mental point of view.
"He is understanding his body, starting to cope with the physicality of the league and I think that will help him. When you play and nothing goes against you, you don’t learn that much.
"Ross has been through good things already. But having to suffer an injury and watch the team from the side -- and having to come back and still getting yourself back to 100 percent -- allows you to know about yourself. And I think you are going to get a more mature player."