Everton's Antolin Alcaraz could miss rest of 2014 with shoulder operation

LIVERPOOL -- Everton defender Antolin Alcaraz could be out until late January as he faces the prospect of surgery on a dislocated shoulder.

Manager Roberto Martinez confirmed that the centre-back damaged the AC joint, which is at the top of the shoulder, in a collision with Wilfried Bony during Saturday's 0-0 Premier League draw at home to Swansea.

Martinez is hopeful that the 32-year-old could be back in around six weeks -- but acknowledged that he would be out for far longer if an operation was needed.

The manager said: "It's difficult with Antolin. The decision to make now is whether he needs surgery. That's a decision we will measure well in order to make the right call.

"It would be between six and 12 weeks depending on the route we take."

A series of injury problems have restricted Alcaraz to 11 appearances for Everton since arriving on a free transfer on July 2013 after leaving Wigan Athletic.

The Paraguay international was plagued with groin trouble and muscle fatigue during his first season at Goodison Park, and he had only just gained a regular starting place when his latest injury blow struck.

With fellow centre-back John Stones out until January as he recovers from ankle surgery, Martinez is likely to partner Sylvain Distin alongside Phil Jagielka in central defence for Thursday night's Europa League Group H home match against Lille -- although 20-year-old academy graduate Tyias Browning could also figure.

Distin played in the 0-0 draw in Lille on Oct. 23, his only first-team performance since a poor display in a 3-0 Capital One Cup defeat at Swansea on Sep. 23.

Martinez stopped short of saying that the 36-year-old would definitely play, but insisted that he remains a key part of the squad.

"Sylvain is a vital part of our team. It's always been that way," he said. "At the weekend, we lost Antolin, so it's an opportunity for another player. Sylvain has been working really well. I thought his performance against Lille was very impressive.

"That's where, as a squad, you need to be able to cope with the injuries and suspensions.

"We're in a position where Sylvain and Tyias Browning -- a young centre-half who has been working hard -- have a good opportunity to show how strong we are a squad."

Darron Gibson is fit to return in midfield after missing last weekend's draw against Swansea with a knee problem.

Striker Arouna Kone and left-back Bryan Oviedo are recovering from knee problems, but Martinez said both should be fit for the Premier League home game against West Ham on Nov. 22.

Forward Kevin Mirallas, meanwhile, is still recovering from the hamstring injury he suffered during the 1-1 Merseyside derby draw at Liverpool on Sep. 27.

"In terms of Kevin Mirallas, because it's a soft tissue injury and he's a sprinter, it's difficult to set a target," Martinez said.

"In terms of the way he's developing, we'll assess it day by day, and I don't think he's going to be too long judging by the way he's worked in the last two or three days. It's quite positive."

Despite several absentees Martinez insists his squad is strong enough to cope with the demands of European and domestic football.

"I think we've shown that," he added. "In football, you can take two approaches. You can start moaning about the injuries and suspensions, or you can look at the opportunities.

"And if the case arises, you can use the youngsters at the club. We pride ourselves in the work we do at the younger levels, and we've had very exciting talent come through.

"Once the window shut, I did feel that we had a strong enough squad in terms of quality and numbers to face the Europa League and the domestic competitions.

"So the answer is clear: Yes. We can cope with suspensions, injuries and the demands of the games."