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Everton boss Roberto Martinez has ruled out any chance of the club rushing centre-back Phil Jagielka back from his hamstring injury.
The Toffees look like they could be struggling at the back between now and the end of the season with Sylvain Distin picking up a hamstring injury himself in the 2-0 win over Manchester United in their last outing.
Now the veteran French defender is a doubt for the remainder of the Premier League season, with Everton still pushing for a top-four finish and a chance of Champions League football next term.
The loss of Distin does put further pressure on Martinez to get Jagielka back into the side to partner the inexperienced John Stones in the heart of the defence.
With a crucial encounter with Southampton at St Mary’s on Saturday fast approaching, Martinez is adamant the England international won’t be rushed back.
He said: “Phil has his own programme and it is important that we follow that and we don’t rush him. He has been involved with first-team training now and that is a really good sign.
“We want Phil back as quick as we can but not because of Sylvain. Phil is going to be fully fit very soon and I do expect that he will probably be able to make the squad against Manchester City on May 3 – that’s always been the plan.”
Everton are 2.45 to beat the Saints on Saturday with the draw 3.29 while the home side are 2.79 for victory.