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Everton still without Rodriguez for United clash, Ancelotti confirms

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The Blues boss said the Colombian is training individually but is not ready to return to action yet

Everton v Arsenal - Premier League
Ancelotti has led Everton to three straight Premier League wins
Photo by Jon Super - Pool/Getty Images

Carlo Ancelotti confirmed James Rodriguez will not be ready to return to action in time for Everton’s EFL Cup quarter-final with Manchester United tomorrow.

Rodriguez, 29, has missed Everton’s last three games - all wins - due to a minor knock sustained in the 1-1 draw at Burnley.

And while Ancelotti confirmed he is back in individual training and could feature in Everton’s final two games of 2020, he ruled the Colombian out of tomorrow’s game at Goodison Park during his pre-match press conference, saying:

“[Smiling] James is not available, but it’s always a difficult decision to do the line-up. Above all, they are professionals, they are serious in training, and they show they deserve to play.

“We are not concerned. We are sad because James is an important player for us, but if he’s not able to play, if he’s not ready, we don’t have to push and force him to come back. We have to wait a little bit so he’s going to recover well and properly.

“The season finishes in May and all players need to have a proper rehab to avoid problems in the future, not only James. I think he could be available for the next game, or the game after. We have games every three days.

“He’s working individually; he has to start working with the team before he starts to play.”

Ancelotti also quashed rumours that surfaced on Monday that Jean-Philippe Gbamin has suffered yet another setback in his own recovery.

Midfielder Gbamin, 25, has not played for Everton since August 2019 due to a number of injuries, and is still on course to return to contention by the new year, Ancelotti said:

“The truth is that Gbamin is back and we want to do a proper entry for him in the squad. We’ll take our time because he had a lot of injuries, so we have to take care with him. But no setback.”

Ancelotti was unwilling to say which of the league or the cup competitions are a higher priority for Everton this season, but is under no illusions about how important tomorrow’s game is for the club.

He also confirmed that he will play what he considers his strongest squad against United, who won 3-1 at Goodison in the Premier League last month, despite the inevitable fixture pile-up over the festive period:

“I don’t know what is best. We are here and we want to fight for this. Tomorrow is an important game. It’s a quarter-final of an important competition that Everton have never won in their history.

“We are not so far, we are in a good moment. We are going to play against a really tough opponent that beat us a few weeks ago here, so it’s a great opportunity tomorrow to show the momentum.

“We give a lot of importance to this competition. We are to games from the final; it would be fantastic for us to play in the final, if possible. So we are going to put out our strongest team.”

Asked what lessons he has learnt from that United defeat in November, Ancelotti joked that they cannot afford to Bruno Fernandes, who scored twice in that match, with any space in which to work.

And Ancelotti hopes that, once again, the 2,000 fans at Goodison tomorrow will provide extra support for his side, as they did in the recent home wins over Chelsea and Arsenal:

“I learnt that if you leave space to him [Fernandes] or to them, we are dead. We have to avoid leaving space.

“He’s a fantastic player. He’s the key point of United at the moment. Of course, we have to take care of this.

“I think the fact that we can play at Goodison park can be an advantage, for sure. The last games [against Chelsea and Arsenal] only had 2,000 supporters, but as I said, the performance of the team was really good also for this reason, I think, because we had support.”