Martinez confident of bouncing back
Everton manager Roberto Martinez believes his team head into this weekend's clash against Southampton stronger for their shock loss to Sunderland.
The high-flying Merseysiders, who were just two points off the top of the Barclays Premier League at Christmas, slipped to a surprise 1-0 home defeat to the bottom side on Boxing Day.
Yet it was a game that hinged on one critical moment as goalkeeper Tim Howard conceded a penalty and was sent off in the 25th minute. Ki Sung-yeung struck from the spot and Everton, despite creating numerous chances, could not force an equaliser.
Martinez was pleased with the response of his players and feels they learnt more in such circumstances than they would have done in a comfortable win.
The Spaniard said: "In football you don't want to lose games but we can take a lot from the way we faced adversity.
"We lost a man early on and we had to play over 60 minutes with 10 men and I thought the way we did that was magnificent. I couldn't be happier with the performance.
"If you are going to lose a game the only thing you can do is learn from the situation and make sure we are stronger for the next game.
"That is the way we are approaching it and I truly believe we are a stronger side now than we were before the game started.
"You can get many positives from a defeat, in the same way you can get many negatives in a victory."
The Sunderland result denied Everton the chance to complete the calendar year 2013 without losing a home league game.
But Sunday's visit of Southampton marks the halfway point of the season and there is plenty of reason for optimism looking ahead.
Martinez said: "This is always a significant moment to assess where you are and make sure we use the January window well.
"It is a very important moment of the season but we can only be encouraged and excited with the first half of the season.
"The players have shown their potential and we can't wait to carry on developing that until the end of the season.
"We are fortunate with the fans we have, recognising and applauding the efforts of the players. That's what gives you extra points over the course of the season and it couldn't give me more excitement looking forward to the second half of the season."
Goalkeeper Joel Robles, who won the FA Cup under Martinez at Wigan last season and then followed him to Everton, will feature with Howard now suspended.
Midfielder Gareth Barry, who has proved hugely influential since arriving on a season-long loan from Manchester City, also misses the game after accumulating five bookings.
Martinez said: "Tim Howard has been sensational the whole campaign and has set high standards on a daily basis.
"Joel is a young man who has been very professional waiting to help the team, and now he is going to have an opportunity to do that.
"The whole squad, since day one, has been working with the same mentality of being ready and supportive of each other.
"We couldn't be happier with the goalkeepers at the club.
"In the same way we are missing Gareth Barry, another experienced footballer who has set high standards, but it becomes an opportunity for someone else.
"We'll never use an excuse not to perform. It is an opportunity for the players who haven't been playing to show how well they have been working behind the scenes."
England left-back Leighton Baines is in contention to return after more than a month out with a broken toe.
Southampton striker Jay Rodriguez hopes to continue his recent form against Everton and keep himself firmly in England's World Cup plans.
The 24-year-old, along with Saints colleagues Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert, was included in Roy Hodgson's squad for the November friendlies against Chile and Germany, winning his first cap against the South Americans at Wembley.
Since his Three Lions appearance, Rodriguez has scored five goals in his last six Premier League outings, including a brace in the 3-0 Boxing Day win over Cardiff.
And the former Burnley forward hopes his club performances can keep him on Hodgson's radar.
"Obviously it is an honour to play your country and a confidence boost when you do get selected," he said.
"It was a nice taste and you obviously want more of it so hopefully I just can just carry on improving and maybe you never know.
"All you can do is keep your head down at your club. You work as hard as you can to try and improve as a player and hopefully then it pays off.
"I have said to myself I want to improve on last year and hopefully I can carry on improving. I want to score as many as I can in each game, so hopefully I can."
And Rodriguez admits the freedom he, Lambert and Lallana are given is bringing out the best in the trio.
"It is nice, the way we play suits me at times, we can try and get in behind the defence and hopefully be around the box to put the goals in so it is nice at the moment," he said.
Southampton's win at Cardiff was their first in seven games, and Rodriguez hopes the three points and the return of several players from injury can spark an improved run.
"We felt we needed that result," he said.
"We have kept the belief in what we want to do and the confidence and team spirit has always been there so it's nice to get the three points that we deserved.
"Of course you have injuries in the camp, that's always disruptive.
"But I think the lads that have come in have done extremely well. We have got a great squad that has shown by the results and hopefully we can continue to pick up points."
The Saints head to Everton with the Toffees having lost for the first time at home this calendar year against Sunderland on Boxing Day.
"Maybe it is a bad result for us or it isn't," said Rodriguez.
"But we know Everton are a great side and are doing extremely well so it will be a tough game, but we like to keep the way we play and hopefully take it to them and get the three points up there."