Leandro close to Everton bow

Date published: Monday 21st September 2015 1:26

Everton’s South American striker Leandro Rodriguez is on the verge of a first-team debut after impressive displays for the under-21s.

Manager Roberto Martinez said the 22-year-old, signed from River Plate Uruguay for £500,000 in late August, is six months ahead of expectations.

As a result he has been rewarded with a place in the Capital One Cup squad which travels to Reading on Tuesday and if he continues his progress he will provide another alternative up front.

“I think he is ahead of his development in terms of what I expected,” said Martinez.

“I expected for him to probably take five to six months to be ready for the British game.

“I have been very impressed with him not just in training but the games for the under-21s, where he has scored in both games.

“He has shown an incredible street footballer’s way of playing the game which has probably helped him to be ahead of the problem we expected.

“He will be involved, he’ll be in the squad and then it will be just down to the needs of the game and how everything goes whether we see Leandro or not.”

Martinez will make changes for the trip to the Madejski Stadium but he insists that will not weaken his side.

Last time out at League One Barnsley he started with Phil Jagielka, John Stones, Tom Cleverley, Romelu Lukaku and Steven Naismith only to find his side 2-0 down at half-time.

The introduction of winger Gerard Deulofeu at half-time changed the dynamic and they turned things around to win 5-3 after extra time.

Deulofeu is likely to get a chance from the start, especially in the absence of Kevin Mirallas who was sent off at Swansea on Saturday, and Martinez is confident his fellow Catalan is now in a position to make his mark.

“Geri had a set-back when we played Arsenal in the Asian Trophy in Singapore (this summer) and he had not played much football since January but I feel now he is ready,” he added.

“I feel the performance against Swansea showed that as he played half an hour with a lot of defensive responsibility and brought that bright spark which could have won us the game.

“He knows how important he is to the team but it is about having to earn every single minute on the pitch and he is well on the way to achieving that.”

Everton have not progressed past this stage of the League Cup since 2011/2012 and the manager is keen to put an end to that poor record.

“It is not a frustration, it just shows how difficult it is,” said Martinez.

“I don’t think we’ve been fortunate in this competition in general, I don’t think we have been blessed with easy ties, most of the games have been away from home.

“But we don’t want to lose what we created at Barnsley. That reaction was based on the character of the group.

“You learn that any game you need to build it around those ingredients you need as a good team: hard work, resilience.”

Martinez is resigned to the imminent three-match suspension of Mirallas despite disagreeing with the decision of referee Stuart Atwell to send off the Belgian just two minutes after he came off the bench.

“It is a very harsh red card. I don’t think it was the right decision but understanding how the system works I don’t think we have a chance of getting it overturned,” he said.

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