Everton top-four tilt hampered by hamstrung Traore

Three defeats in their last four Premier League games have dented Everton’s hopes of Champions League football for next season, so the news that giant frontman Lacina Traore will miss several weeks with a hamstring problem is another blow.

Coral make Roberto Martinez’s Toffees 14/1 now to finish in the top four, following their recent slump. Another on-loan star striker Romelu Lukaku should make his return from an ankle injury in their next outing at home to West Ham, however.

Lukaku limped out of the Merseyside derby mauling by Liverpool in January, which kick-started Everton’s dramatic dip in form. Ivory Coast international Traore, 23, sustained his injury in the warm-up of the 1-0 defeat at Chelsea and is likely to be out until mid-March.

“Obviously with this sort of injury it is normally weeks rather than months,” Toffees manager Martinez said. “The type of player Lacina is, a sprinter, means these sort of injuries need to be well recovered.”

Traore took just four minutes to break his Everton duck against Swansea in the FA Cup fifth round, but he is now set to miss the visit of Sam Allardyce’s Hammers and a trip to Arsenal in the quarter-finals.

He will play no part in the next Ivory Coast match, ironically in a World Cup warm-up friendly against Lukaku and Belgium, too. Martinez may be targeting home games against Welsh opposition in Cardiff and Swansea as potential dates for Traore to make his comeback.

Ineligible against parent club Chelsea last time out, Lukaku is now ready to return, but saw his early season purple patch dry up before getting injured. He scored eight times in his first nine Toffees matches, but then went on a run of netting just once in 10 games.

Martinez has also been without Tarore’s compatriot Arouna Kone at Goodison Park for most of the season because of a serious knee problem.

Everton are odds-on at 4/11 to get back to winning ways against West Ham. Back Lukaku to announce his return by scoring the first goal at 7/2 or netting anytime at 10/11.