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Ancelotti confident squad can cope without full-backs

Lucas Digne and Seamus Coleman are both sidelined, but the Everton manager has faith in their deputies

Everton Training Session
Ancelotti’s Everton got back to winning ways at Fulham last week
Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Carlo Ancelotti says he trusts whoever he chooses in place of injured full-backs Lucas Digne and Seamus Coleman, though acknowledged it is a better for Everton to lose two of their most important players.

Digne faces several months out with an ankle injury sustained in training this week, for which he will undergo surgery on Monday, while Coleman suffered a recurrence of a hamstring injury during November’s international break.

But speaking at Friday’s pre-match press conference ahead of Leeds’ visit to Goodison Park tomorrow, Ancelotti said the squad is strong enough to cope without both Digne and Coleman:

“I think so [that the squad is strong enough]. We have a good squad; we have good substitutes in those positions.

“We have Niels Nkounkou, who doesn’t have experience in the Premier League, but he showed good quality in the game he played before [at Newcastle].

“We have Jonjoe Kenny on the right, who is a player from the Everton academy, so we have the possibility to substitute, and of course we will try [to get by without Digne and Coleman].”

News of Digne’s training injury surfaced on Thursday afternoon, which comes after the French international provided two assists in Everton’s 3-2 win at Fulham last weekend.

And while Ancelotti said he has faith in Nkounkou, he acknowledged what an important player Digne is to Everton and what a loss he will be in the coming weeks:

“It is a big loss because he is a fantastic left-back; one of the best left-backs in Europe at the moment. But we have to manage this.

“During a season, it can happen that you lose some important players, and we have to be able to manage this situation, and I think we will be able to adapt for the loss of Lucas Digne for two or three months.

“It was an unfortunate situation during training. This can happen, unfortunately.”

As for Coleman, who missed Sunday’s Fulham win, Ancelotti said he is closer to a return than Digne, but that the Leeds clash will come too soon for the 32-year-old.

But the Italian had more positive news on midfielder Jean-Philippe Gbamin, who has not featured since August 2019 due to various injuries but is now a fortnight away from being available for selection again:

“Seamus Coleman is doing his individual rehab and he won’t be able available for this game. I hope he will be available soon. We have to check him week by week.

“Gbamin, in two weeks, will be here. We decided to leave him to finish his rehab individually. In two weeks, when he is here, he will be ready to train and play.”

Ancelotti also spoke of how pleased he is that fans will soon be allowed to return to football stadia in the UK, albeit initially in small numbers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given Liverpool was placed into Tier 2 of the new lockdown system, this will allow 2,000 Evertonians to attend home matches starting from the visit of Chelsea on December 12.

And the Blues boss believes it will be a real boost for football as much as Everton to see fans begin to return to grounds:

“This is really good news for the Premier League, not only for Everton, because it’s not the problem of Everton or our club.

“It’s true that Everton supporters are allowed, but everyone hopes that all the supporters will be allowed to go to the stadiums to support their team as soon as possible.

“For sure, I think it will be an advantage for us to have our supporters at Goodison Park, and it will be a disadvantage when we play away. That is normal.

“But the fact that supporters are coming back is what we need, and what the Premier League and football in general needs.”