Everton play twice in three days starting at Sheffield United tomorrow on Boxing Day and then on Monday the 28th against Manchester City, and could be without both Richarlison and James Rodriguez for the two games.
Speaking after the loss to Manchester United midweek in lieu of having a Christmas Day pre-match press conference, manager Carlo Ancelotti said that James’ calf issue is continuing to persist and he is out for this weekend. Meanwhile, the Brazilian forward took a heavy blow to the head in the Carabao Cup quarter final, and if he is diagnosed to have received a concussion, then league rules dictate he will have to be held out for at least six days.
“If he [Richarlison] has a concussion, he has to stay out, we have to follow the protocols and we have to be able to replace him better than when he was not here [before].
“Also, for the next two games James will not be available.
“If Richarlison is not there it will be a great opportunity for the players that didn’t play a lot, and for this game they can show their qualities.”
Everton are yet to win a game where Richarlison has not featured since he signed for the club, including a three-game stretch earlier this season when he was suspended for a straight red card. At the time Ancelotti had chosen to go with Bernard and Andre Gomes to replace him and didn’t give youngster Anthony Gordon any minutes to show if he could be a direct replacement.
However, from the manager’s words it looks like he will attempt to play as close to a full strength side against the Blades on Saturday and then field a weakened XI against City on Monday.
“I think that [before] Sheffield United we have the possibility to recover all the players and, after the game, of course, we have to take into consideration the fact that we are going to play again two days later, so it will not be possible [for all of the same players to play].
“I think, not for the first game but for the second game, we are going to rotate the players.”
Sheffield United sit at the bottom of the table and are yet to win a game this season after a surprising campaign last season that saw Chris Wilder’s side finish ninth. Ancelotti is wary of tomorrow’s opponents however, especially with Everton’s propensity to play down to weaker opposition.
“I think we have to move on [from the Manchester United defeat]. Of course, we are disappointed but we performed.
“We have to be able to recover the energy that we need to play against Sheffield United because it will be a tough match, an important match and we want to keep the position in the league that is a good position.
“Sheffield United did a fantastic game against Brighton. Also, because they were with 10 men, they performed really well. It will be an important game. They need the points, we need the points - all the teams need the points.
“As usual, it will be a tough game because the Premier League is like this. Every game you have to fight to have a result.”