After limping off just five minutes into the second-half of an enthralling Merseyside derby, Everton left-back Leighton Baines could now be sidelined for up to six weeks with a fractured toe.
While half-a-dozen weeks is the worst case scenario for Baines, who could only be missing for more like 10 days depending on the healing process, the news represents a major setback for the Toffees’ top-four aspirations.
Even though Everton’s draw against city rivals Liverpool ensured they remain just a point behind Manchester City in fourth, it was the third successive Premier League game which has ended all square for Roberto Martinez’s side – who were also leapfrogged by Manchester United.
Without such an influential player as Baines being available for a number of games, it’s also no surprise to see Everton out as far as 12/1 to break into the Champions League berths by the end of the season.
There is hardly a better deliverer of a dead ball in the top flight as Baines, who also has the ability to score from set pieces as well as create goals with a left peg more cultured than Lauren Laverne and Charlie Brooker put together.
What’s more, he has started every one of the Toffees’ 12 Premier League games to date and his free-kick double at West Ham in September ensured his side recorded their first away win of the campaign.
His form this season has been so good, it’s led to some observers calling for the defender to be installed as England’s first-choice left-back ahead of Chelsea’s Ashley Cole.
Whichever team Baines played for would be sure to miss his influence, but looking at the back-up options Martinez has available, the balance of Everton’s side is sure to suffer.
Costa Rican lefty Bryan Oviedo has played less than 45 minutes Premier League football this season, John Stones is just 19 and veteran defender Tony Hibbert has also been out since August.
The Toffees remain 2/1 shots to break the Premier League’s top-six meanwhile.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
Fancy a flutter? Sign up today to claim three £10 free bets when you bet £10.