Martinez defends Everton duo

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After pulling off a superb 4-1 Europa League last-32 first-leg victory over Young Boys in Bern last Thursday, Martinez’s men returned to less-than-impressive Premier League form on Sunday, scraping a 2-2 home draw against bottom side Leicester.

Among those criticised for their performances against Leicester ??? which left 12th-placed Everton with a record of only two wins in 14 league matches – were 21-year-olds Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley.

But in his press conference to preview Thursday’s second leg against Young Boys at Goodison Park, Martinez was keen to speak up for his charges.

The Spaniard said: “I think there has been a lot of cheap talk from the outside – a lot of talk about Romelu Lukaku, about Ross Barkley and about our form.

“We just accept that – all we need to do is focus on winning games and enjoying our football.”

Although he failed to convert several chances across the last two games, striker Lukaku scored a hat-trick in the Young Boys contest to take his tally for the season to 13, before seeing his header deflect in off Leicester defender Matthew Upson for Everton’s late equaliser on Sunday.

Barkley, meanwhile, struggled in that fixture but had also shone in Switzerland.

And Martinez added: “If you have a player who can create many chances and score a hat-trick, and then force the defender to get an own-goal, I think that’s an outstanding contribution. You can decide to criticise it or to admire it.

“Rom is 21 and still learning, but to have that sort of impact is a big asset from our point of view.

“The amount of chances he is creating is pleasing me, converted or not ??? that is just a matter of time. I think he has been a real threat.

“Ross is one of the best young European talents. You need to find a way to be?? consistent, because at times you will get opposition who will man-mark Ross and make it difficult. It is part of the learning curve for him and for us as a team.”