Carlo Ancelotti has ruled three Everton players out of tomorrow’s visit of Chelsea, as well as longer-term absentees Lucas Digne and Jean-Phillipe Gbamin.
The Everton boss confirmed that Seamus Coleman remains out with a hamstring problem, while Fabian Delph is sidelined with a similar issue which forced him off in last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Burnley.
But speaking at his pre-match press conference, Ancelotti also confirmed James Rodriguez will miss the match, having not trained this week after a minor knock in the Burnley clash:
“We have three players unavailable. One is Coleman, who started training with the team this week. He is [in a] quite good [condition] and I think he will be available for the game against Leicester on Wednesday.
“We have Delph out, who suffered an injury against Burnley, and we have James out, who had a little problem in the game against Burnley and was not able to train this week. I think he will start to train next week, but for this game we don’t want to take a risk.
“He [James] had a charge on his calf after the games against Burnley. It’s nothing special, but I don’t want to take a risk on a player who wasn’t able to train this week. We have to look at him after the game, to see if he is able to train and play against Leicester.”
Despite more absentees this weekend for Ancelotti to contend with, the Italian is not keen on using this as an excuse.
And he added that, ahead of a December fixture list including clashes with both Manchester clubs, Chelsea, Leicester City and Arsenal, Everton’s confidence has not been knocked by these setbacks.
“I’m not used to complaining about the players who are not available for a match. The players who are available trained well and are in good condition.
“We understand it will be an important moment and an important test, not only tomorrow but in this period of December. We arrive at this game with confidence and motivation.
“James is a fantastic player for us. He did really well at the beginning, he had some problems after the game against Liverpool, he travelled a lot with the international team, so his condition went down a little bit.
“But we will be able to adapt to the fact he’s not going to play. We have a good squad. Maybe we are going to play a bit different, but we are able to support the fact he’s not going to play tomorrow.”
Having started the season preferring a 4-3-3 formation as Everton won all of their first seven matches in all competitions, Ancelotti has since mixed things up and opted for a back three in recent weeks.
With that change in approach yielding mixed results, Ancelotti was asked whether he will revert to a back four now, especially after it sparked an improvement in Everton’s performance after switching to 4-3-3 from 3-4-3 after half an hour at Burnley last week.
“We have the option to play with three at the back or to play with four. I think it depends on which kind of strategy we want to use for every single game.
Tomorrow will be the first game since March 1 that Goodison Park will welcome fans to, with 2,000 socially-distanced Evertonians permitted to watch the game inside the stadium.
And Ancelotti sees this as a hugely positive step amid the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and is certain it will be a welcome change from the emptiness of the stadiums Everton have played in since football resumed in June:
“I think it will be nice for everyone. It’s a good start to reopen the stadium. We are really pleased to have them even if there are only 2,000 supporters at Goodison Park. It will be really nice and I’m sure they’re going to support us for the game tomorrow.
“I don’t have any experience of this. I think players, staff and coaches are all really pleased to have supporters at the stadium. We are not used to having noise, but I think there will be a lot of noise. I think it’s a good sensation for everyone.”
As for tomorrow’s game, which sees Ancelotti take on his former club in Chelsea, he expects a tough game from a side in great form and only two points and place off the top of the Premier League.
But he added that he has faith in his Everton side to deliver the high level of performance that will be required to beat Chelsea tomorrow:
“Chelsea are in a really good moment. After a difficult start, they have started to play like they want and like they are able to do.
“It is necessary for us to deliver a fantastic and top, top performance. The question is, are we able to do this? My personal opinion today is yes. We are able to compete.”