Everton manager Roberto Martinez says his players remain fully motivated ahead of their clash with Sunderland on Wednesday.
The 42-year-old accused his side of getting swept up in the occasion of Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to champions Leicester City, who were presented the Premier League trophy after the match.
That defeat extended Everton’s winless league run to five matches and piled further pressure on Martinez, who has faced growing criticism from the fans in recent weeks, but he insists his players showed their determination to finish the campaign strongly with their efforts late on against Leicester.
“There’s no such thing as winning the players back,” he said on Tuesday. “Two weeks ago we had a good, determined performance against [AFC] Bournemouth and then we got caught up in the atmosphere of a unique achievement against Leicester.
“But we never lost the fight, we scored late in the game and we always wanted to get something.
“That’s why our focus goes to tomorrow. The intensity needs to be matched. We know exactly what we’ll face and we need to be at our very best.
“The only thing that matters is [avoiding] any distraction, to focus on Sunderland. We’re not going to make the mistake of losing our attention from the only thing that matters.
“We have a strong desire to get back to this level and we have to show that. As a team, we have to react from the disappointment of the weekend.”
Sunderland can guarantee Premier League survival with a win, after they came from behind to beat Chelsea on Saturday, while fellow strugglers Newcastle United were held by Aston Villa.
Martinez was full of praise for the positive atmosphere that boss Sam Allardyce has engendered at the Stadium of Light, but says there is no danger of Everton not going all out for victory.
“It’s a huge, huge game. Not only because of what Sunderland are playing for but the integrity of the Premier League is the strongest of any,” he said. “From our point of view, it’s reacting to what happened against Leicester.
“Sunderland found a way forward, a winning formula. The real strength is that they’re on the up. I think beating Chelsea shows that, they drew with Arsenal, beat Manchester United. There’s a real feeling of positive achievement. We’ll have to match that.”
Martinez expects Gareth Barry to be fit after recovering from a groin problem, while Ramiro Funes Mori returns from suspension, but Seamus Coleman, Phil Jagielka (both hamstring) and Gerard Deulofeu (knee) will miss out.
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