Everton have not played since January 12, after their trip to Aston Villa last weekend was postponed due to the hosts’ recent COVID-19 outbreak.
Ancelotti’s side return to action when they host the Owls in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday, but while Dominic Calvert-Lewin is back, he confirmed at his pre-match press conference that a number of other players are unavailable, saying:
“I think it was a good time [to have a break]. It’s true that we didn’t have a game, but I think we used this time to put the players that had problems before in a better condition.
“We have Calvert-Lewin back for the game. Unfortunately, we have some players out, like Jean-Philippe Gbamin, Allan, Fabian Delph, Lucas Digne, Alex Iwobi and Niels Nkounkou. But the others are in a good condition, ready to play this game, and ready to compete in this competition.
“I cannot be so specific but they [Digne and Iwobi] will be available for the game against Leicester [on Wednesday]. They will only not be available for this game.”
Despite facing Wednesday, 23rd in the Championship, ahead of a gruelling run of four Premier League games in less than two weeks, Ancelotti said he will pick the strongest side possible for the FA Cup tie.
He added that Calvert-Lewin has now fully recovered from the hamstring injury which has kept him out since January 1:
“I want to put out the best line-up as possible for the game against Sheffield Wednesday because we don’t want to think about Leicester. The Leicester game is afterwards.
“We want to move on in this competition and I think Dominic can start because he trained well. He’s in good physical condition. I think he can play.”
Ancelotti also stressed how important Sunday’s game is for Everton, who have not won a trophy since they last lifted the FA Cup in 1995.
And having crept past Rotherham United in the third round despite a dismal performance, the Italian urged his team not to show the same complacency against Wednesday:
“We know how important the FA Cup is in this country; it’s a really important competition. We had problems in the first game [vs Rotherham]. I think we have to approach this game well.
“In the FA Cup, there will always be surprises. We do not want to be the negative surprise.”
It has been a tumultuous season for managerless Wednesday, who were docked 12 points (later halved) at the start of the season, have already sacked two bosses and sit second-bottom of the second tier.
They also had a COVID-19 outbreak of their own and have not played since their third round win at Exeter on January 9.
But since Tony Pulis’ departure, they have won all three of their games under caretaker boss Neil Thompson, and Ancelotti is expecting a tough challenge from them on Sunday:
“Sheffield Wednesday are coming with all the strengths that they have. They have a strong, physical team, and they want to compete with us. We have to be ready for this.
“It’s a good team. In the last game, they played well and won. It’s true that they have had problems with the virus, but I think they come back with good motivation. For them, it’s a big challenge to play against us. We know this and we have to respect this.”
Ancelotti was also asked for an update on the fitness of Jean-Phillipe Gbamin who, through various injuries, has not featured for Everton since his home debut in August 2019.
He revealed that the Ivorian has now returned to individual training, and has no doubts he will play again when ready, but is taking a cautious approach with the midfielder given the length of his absence:
“We have to look at him day by day. He’s following his individual programme, like Allan and Delph. I think, soon, he will be able to train with us, but we don’t want to put pressure on him because he was out for a long time, and when he comes back, he has to be ready.
“For sure, he will come back.”