Southampton - Ronald Koeman believes Southampton's clash with Everton at St Mary's on Saturday will provide a vital test of his team's character.
Saints manager Koeman had enjoyed an almost perfect introduction to life in the Premier League during the opening months of the campaign as the Dutchman steered Southampton up to second place.
But a run of five successive defeats -- four in the league followed by Tuesday's shock loss in the League Cup quarter-finals at third tier Sheffield United -- has threatened to take the gloss off the club's start.
And despite a number of players being sidelined for the visit of Roberto Martinez's side, Koeman has called on his squad to provide a positive response and get their season back on track.
"Injuries and suspensions are part of football but in the last few weeks maybe that's one of the reasons we have found it tough," Koeman said.
"We had to change too much in the team, too many players are not 100 per cent in a physical way and the team is maybe a little bit more down.
"But we know we have to accept that and there is no time to be down. We have to go on and we need to give a good reaction.
"It's about the character of the team that we have to show on Saturday.
"Every game is tough, you have to be prepared for every game, bring a lot of spirit with you. You need the qualities and you have to learn, that's the most important message."
Koeman, meanwhile, insists he will not be able to afford to sign Galatasaray's Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder in the January transfer window.
"I'm interested, but I know we can't pay him," he said.- McCarthy injury an issue -
Everton manager Martinez revealed the club are searching for the perfect formula to keep James McCarthy fit for the rest of the season.
McCarthy has been struggling with a hamstring injury recently and the midfielder will face a fitness test for Saturday's game.
And Martinez admitted the club are working behind the scenes to get the bottom of how to keep the Republic of Ireland international in prime condition and enable him to feature as much as possible.
"The type of injury he has comes from overload, playing too many games," Martinez said.
"You get to a point as a young man you need to get the right load in training, the right way of recovering to be able to play three games in a week. That's what we are trying to find out.
"Maybe James needs to train less in order to play more games, or maybe the nutrition, maybe the way of recovering needs changing. We need to find what is putting extra pressure on his tissues."
Everton winger Kevin Mirallas and midfielder Leon Osman will miss out against the Saints with ankle injuries, although Martinez confirmed neither player will be absent for too long.
"We were worried after the QPR game with Kevin because it was a tackle on him where the ankle was damaged," he added.
"But the damage is the least it could be. Kevin is a good healer. He's out for Saturday but I wouldn't rule him out for most of the Christmas period.
"Leon has been receiving treatment since the Manchester City game. He has been having a specific programme for him and he has reacted really well and he doesn't need surgery."