KEVIN MIRALLAS believes the return to fitness of “scary” Marouane Fellaini can land a psychological blow for Everton FC ahead of Sunday’s derby.
Fellaini is winning his battle to be fit after being sidelined by a knee injury suffered while on international duty with Belgium earlier this month.
The midfielder, a huge influence behind the strong start to the season for David Moyes’s side, sat out his country’s World Cup qualifying wins against Serbia and Scotland and missed Everton’s 1-1 draw at Queens Park Rangers last weekend.
However, the 24-year-old has responded to treatment and is expected to line up in the 219th meeting with neighbours Liverpool at Goodison this weekend.
And Mirallas is convinced the sight of compatriot Fellaini in the starting line-up will give Everton a mental boost.
“I think he will be playing on Sunday,” said the attacker. “He is a fantastic player and when he’s not there it’s harder for the team to get good results.
“It’s also good to have Marouane available because he is scary for the other team. People in the opposition fear him.
“It will be really important for him to play. He would be a psychological asset.”
Sunday’s game is likely to be too soon for Darron Gibson – missing since September 1 with a thigh problem – although Tony Hibbert could be involved.
Everton will look to strengthen their grip on fourth place with victory on Sunday, which would open up a nine-point gap on their neighbours.
And Phil Jagielka reveals league position as much as local pride will be main incentive at Goodison.
“We don’t look at it like we are favourites,” said the centre-back. “Derbies are different. Confidence should be high in out squad after our good start to the season, but it’s a derby – we will all be up for it anyway.
“Hopefully we can get the Goodison fans rocking and give them a good result on Sunday.
“We are normally desperate to beat Liverpool because it’s Liverpool. But this time we also have to think about keeping ourselves up at the higher end of the league. Normally at this time we are playing catch-up, so it’s a nice change.”
Everton will be without Steven Pienaar, the South African serving a one-match ban following his dismissal for two bookable offences at Loftus Road last Sunday.
And Jagielka added: “Steven is a big player for us, and his red card was disappointing.
“But we have decent enough players to come in, hopefully we can get Felli back and one or two others and we will go into the game with confidence.
“The mood in the squad is not bad. We’d have liked three points at QPR but the way the game went with us going behind early on and losing Steven to a second yellow card, it was a decent result and keeps us up there at the top end and prepares us for Sunday.
“We are still conceding goals in games but with the expansive football we are playing we are having a little bit more to do at the back than before.
“As long as we get a decent amount of points on the board, if we happen to concede it’s one of those things.”
Meanwhile, Everton officials are urging fans to arrive in plenty of time for the Merseyside derby on Sunday, which kicks off at 1.30pm.
The club have introduced pre-match entertainment in the Park End car park from 10.30am, including music, games and competitions.
Everton have also reintroduced the ban on bottles being taken into the seated areas at Goodison for Sunday, with bottled drinks only allowed to be consumed in the concourse areas.