By North-west correspondent Alex Stevens
Youngster Matthew Pennington could be handed a start for Everton in central defence against Manchester United on Saturday, according to Stan Collymore.
The broadcaster claimed on his personal Twitter account in the build-up to the FA Cup semi-final clash at Wembley that it was heavily rumoured the 21-year-old will be in Roberto Martinez’s starting X1.
Pennington, 21, was recalled from his loan spell at League One club Walsall earlier in the week following Ramiro Funes Mori’s sending off in the Merseyside derby.
Rumours that Matthew Pennington starts at CB for Toffees today.@talkSPORT LIVE 5:15pm KO
— Stan Collymore (@StanCollymore) April 23, 2016
The Portugese is suspended for the United clash, while a crisis at the back has left Martinez without Seamus Coleman (hamstring) and with doubts over the fitness of Phil Jagielka (hamstring) and John Stones (stomach cramps).
Pennington, who made his Everton debut earlier in the campaign, has played only 45 minutes for the senior team.
The loss of first-choice right-back Coleman is a blow for Everton, who used left footer Bryan Oviebo on the right side of the defence in Wednesday’ embarrassing meltdown at Liverpool.
Martinez was due to give late fitness tests to Stones, Jagielka and Barry but there is a possibility that four of the team’s leading five defenders could be absent for the most important match of Everton’s season, with Leighton Baines the only one certain to be available for Wembley.
Centre-back Ramiro Funes Mori is suspended for three matches after being sent off on Wednesday for a horror tackle on Divock Origi, who is set to be sidelined for four to six weeks with ankle ligament damage.
The FA Cup has taken on even greater significance for Everton as they seek to salvage something from an increasingly disappointing campaign.
Martinez’s job is under growing threat after the team dropped to 11th in the league following Wednesday’s Anfield humiliation.