Everton boss backs Lukaku as striker looks to end eight-game drought at Sunderland
Everton boss Roberto Martinez hopes for a final flourish from striker Romelu Lukaku ahead of the Euro 2016 finals.
The Belgian striker has impresssed this season, netting 25 times in 37 appearances for the Goodison Park club, who visit Sunderland tonight.
Incredibly, after such a productive campaign, the former Chelsea and Anderlecht frontman has not scored in the last eight matches.
Speculation persists about a big move for the 22-year-old this summer, but Martinez insists that Lukaku has not had his head turned.
“He loves the game so much that I don’t think he’s a player that’s going to get affected by speculation,” said Martinez.
“It is true that it’s the first time he has to cope with 47 games in a season. At the age of 22, you’re still working out how to get through games and how to cope with the intensity.
“That doesn’t mean you feel tired, it’s just knowing how to cope with that mental fatigue of refocusing for every game, which is a normal thing that happens when you’re a young player.”
Martinez has been impressed by Sunderland’s run of form, which has taken them to the brink of safety, with victory tonight guaranteeing their top-flight status for next term.
“It’s fair to say that they have found a way of playing and a winning formula for them. I think they will come out in a similar way to Leicester (who beat Everton 3-1 on Saturday),” Martinez told evertonfc.com
“It’s fair to say they have found a winning formula, with a line-up that hasn’t been changed for a few games.
“They have only lost one of their last six home games and picked up some very good results against the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.
“They’ve found a very good level of form and we’ll have to match that intent and intensity, but we are more than capable of being able to cope with that and performing in a way that we have done away from home this season.”
Black Cats manager Sam Allardyce has hailed the togetherness of his players, while rumours persist about to what degree Everton’s squad are pulling for their manager.
But Martinez, in an unusually brief press conference yesterdAy, again insisted that there are no problems on that score, saying: “It’s not such a thing as winning the players back.
“Two weeks ago we had a good response, a really good, determined performance, to get a win at home against Bournemouth.
“Then we went away to Leicester in a game where we got caught up with the atmosphere and the celebration of a unique footballing achievement, and probably that lack of intensity cost the performance.
“But we never lost the fight, we scored late in the game and we always wanted to try to get something out of the game. But if you don’t match the intensity of your opponent, it’ll be very, very difficult.
“Tomorrow that intensity needs to be matched. Sunderland have got a very good record at home in the last six games, they had very good performances, they’ve got a good continuity in their line-up, so we know exactly what we’re going to face.”