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Martinez stresses importance of Naismith ahead of Lille clash

Everton boss Roberto Martinez has claimed striker Steven Naismith is his side’s secret European weapon, as the Toffees travel to France to take on Lille.

The Merseyside outfit are 11/5 to record a victory, and are unbeaten in the Europa League this season, thanks to a late Samuel Eto’o equaliser in Russia last time out against Krasnodar. Former Chelsea striker Eto’o is 6/1 to score last again.

Martinez, though, has singled out Scotsman Naismith as a potential key performer for his side: “We are really thankful to have him in our squad, and we know how important he is with the games coming up.

“He can play in so many ways and so many different roles because of his football intelligence. It is a valuable asset for us, and he has shown the incredible level he has reached.

“I was pleased to see the reaction of the whole crowd toward him after the Villa game, because because no-one deserves it more than him. They know what an impressive performer he is.”

Naismith, who is 8/1 to open the scoring, will be hoping to hear news of a new deal soon, with rumours that there is one in the pipeline; however, Martinez maintained that there is still plenty of time for discussions.

“We always want to reward people but he is well rewarded at the moment,” he added. “We have to make sure he continues to enjoy his football and he understands that he is an important player for us.”

The former Wigan and Swansea manager also insisted that there is no rift between himself and Sylvain Distin, despite the 36-year-old not playing recently.

“He is working well, and there are no issues at all. It is just that I made decisions on who has looked sharpest in training,” Martinez explained.

Romelu Lukaku netted last time out for Everton, so is 6/1 to strike first or 7/4 in the anytime market, and seems to be rediscovering the kind of scoring form he enjoyed last season while on loan at the Toffees. His link-up play with Naismith, as well as full backs Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman, is a potent combination.

One sub-plot that carries plenty of intrigue, however, is Liverpool’s new summer striker signing Divock Origi, who was sent back out on loan to his former club, Lille, and the 19-year-old Belgian has one goal in two Europa League matches. No doubt he will be hailed as a hero among his Liverpool colleagues if he can help to beat their fiercest rivals. He is 7/2 to open the scoring.

Coral are also offering an enticing matchday special featuring the young starlet, with Origi to net and Lille to win available at 9/2 (please note there is a maximum stake of £20).

French full back Sebastien Corchia is a key player for the home side, and he dispatched in his club’s Champions League qualifying campaign. He was linked with Arsenal last season, as a replacement for outbound Bacary Sagna, and Baines, who himself likes to maraud forward will have to be on his guard, with the 23-year-old 7/1 to find the net anytime.