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Barry set to enter 500 club
Roberto Martinez has paid tribute to Gareth Barry on the eve of a game which is likely to see the Everton midfielder join the elite band of players to have made 500 Barclays Premier League appearances.
Should, as expected, Barry feature for the Toffees against Newcastle on Monday night he would become just the 10th player since the Premier League's inception in 1992 to have played in 500 games, putting him in the company of the likes of Ryan Giggs, Frank Lampard and former Everton utility man Phil Neville.
The 32-year-old burst on to the scene with Aston Villa in 1997 and was a part of Manchester City's title-winning squad in 2012 prior to his summer loan move to Goodison Park.
His departure came as a shock to some in the City camp, according to Everton full-back Leighton Baines, and Martinez sees no indication Barry's talent will wane.
"I don't think there are many more significant records than that," the Everton boss said of Barry's potential landmark on Monday.
"I think it represents his professionalism, the way he looks after himself, the way he sees the game and the experience that he brings into any side.
"And you can add the 50 appearances he's had for England, so far. He's in such a great moment in his career."
While one of Martinez's recruits prepares for game number 500, another, defender Antolin Alcaraz, is still waiting for his Toffees debut.
The Paraguayan followed his manager's path from Wigan to Goodison Park this summer but is yet to pull on the Everton shirt due to a succession of injuries.
Martinez revealed the latest problem is a groin injury which is likely to see Alcaraz sidelined for another month yet.
"Nothing is more frustrating than injuries," the Spaniard added. "As a player you can cope with any sort of disappointment. If you're not in the team, if you're not performing well, there's always that opportunity to go out and train next morning.
"When you're out of that day-to-day work in the dressing room you just don't feel like a footballer. When you arrive into a new club you want to have that feeling of being able to compete and show what you can do.
"But Antolin is a fighter, he is a leader, he's been through many, many situations. We are excited to see the best of Antolin in the next four weeks and I do feel that now we are going to be able to do it."
Martinez has better news elsewhere on the injury front with both Alcaraz's former Latics team-mate Arouna Kone and Leon Osman likely to overcome the injuries which kept them out of the midweek Capital One Cup loss to Fulham.
Central midfielder Darron Gibson has shown no reaction after returning from a knee injury and South African Steven Pienaar has an outside shot of recovering from his hamstring problem.
Those returns would give Martinez welcome selection dilemmas.
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has tipped Everton to be this season's Premier League surprise package.
The 52-year-old takes his side to Goodison Park on Monday evening hoping they can bounce back from a wasteful 3-2 home defeat by Hull last weekend in which they took the lead twice but could not retain it.
However, he knows that could be intensely difficult against a side which is yet to lose in the league this season.
The Toffees are under new management following David Moyes' departure for Manchester United, and Marouane Fellaini's decision to join the Scot at Old Trafford robbed them of one of their most influential players.
Asked if new man Martinez had big shoes to fill, Pardew said: "Yes, but they have signed some good players and you would have to say that they have got what looks like a stronger squad than David had last year.
"Certainly the chairman there has done his bit, and they could be the surprise package of the season."
The Spaniard is busily stamping his own mark on the players he inherited from Moyes having added summer signings James McCarthy, Barry and Romelu Lukaku to the mix, and the early signs have been promising.
Everton have beaten Chelsea and West Ham and drawn with Norwich, West Brom and Cardiff, and although they slipped out of the Capital One Cup at the hands of Fulham on Tuesday, they went into the weekend sitting in sixth place in the Premier League.
Pardew has been impressed by what Martinez has done so far, and expects a slightly different approach to the one adopted by Moyes' teams over the years.
However, he is confident the Magpies will be able to cope with that having returned to winning ways with a 2-0 League Cup victory over Leeds in midweek.
He said: "Their retention of the ball will probably be greater under Roberto. But what we have shown is that we have got a real offensive look about us. But we have got to make sure we are tight enough to cope with that.
"We weren't against Hull, but in the last three or four games other than that game, we have been and that's important.
"If we are going to have a more offensive look, then we have got to make sure the back door is shut.
"It was on Wednesday night. We got a clean sheet again and that was a good thing."
Pardew made six changes for the Leeds game as he rested some of his key men and handed chances to youngsters Paul Dummett and Sammy Ameobi.
But his big guns are likely to return at Everton with Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa and Loic Remy, who scored both the Magpies goals against Hull, certain to be restored to the starting line-up.
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