DAVID MOYES is facing the dilemma of a busy festive period with only one fit central defender - after injured Phil Jagielka was facing a month on the sidelines.
Jagielka was forced off with a thigh injury against Manchester City on Monday night, and scans yesterday have confirmed Everton’s worst fears.
The England international, who has forged a fine partnership with Sylvain Distin this season, will now miss Everton’s four Barclays Premier League games over the holiday period, along with still being a doubt for the FA Cup third round visit to Scunthorpe United in early January.
And with John Heitinga struggling to overcome the knee injury that has ruled him out of the last three games, Sylvain Distin may be the only senior centre-back available to Moyes for the Boxing Day visit of Birmingham City.
Should the Dutchman not recover in time for Sunday, Everton manager Moyes could choose to play either Phil Neville or Tony Hibbert at centre-back alongside Distin.
The blues boss could also call on the services of teenage defender Shane Duffy, with the Irishman making the first team bench several times this season but so far without any playing time in the Premier League.
It could prompt Moyes, who is clearly short of defensive cover at centre back and left back, to factor that into his already extensive trawl for new loan recruits in the January transfer window.
Jagielka was unfortunate to score an own goal on Monday, after Yaya Toure’s shot deflected off him and past Tim Howard.
But he was otherwise typically solid against a barrage of City attacks, and will be a huge loss for a manager trying to resurrect his side’s fortunes over the next four games.