Carlo Ancelotti has challenged his second-string midfielders to step up in the absence of both Allan and Abdoulaye Doucouré against Leicester City tomorrow.
Allan remains injured while Doucouré is suspended, meaning Ancelotti may turn to Tom Davies, André Gomes or even Mason Holgate in the centre of the park.
Ancelotti also confirmed that Lucas Digne and Alex Iwobi are available again having missed Sunday’s FA Cup win over Sheffield Wednesday, but Fabian Delph, Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Niels Nkounkou remain out, saying:
“We don’t have Doucoure or Allan, but Tom Davies played really well in the games he played. André Gomes did well in the last game, but I know Mason can also play in midfield.
“We have back from the last game Digne and Iwobi. We are without Delph, Gbamin and Nkounkou. The others are all good.”
With Leicester six points ahead of sixth-placed Everton but having played two games more, this looks a pivotal chapter in the Toffees’ search for European football.
And, speaking at his pre-match press conference, Ancelotti stressed the importance of their two successive home league games, with Leicester and Newcastle visiting Goodison Park on Wednesday and Saturday respectively:
“It’s a really, really important game for us, to know what we want in the future, to fight for the top six, to fight for the top four.
“But also [after] Newcastle - we will know where we will be in the future. To win you need to give a performance of 100 per cent.”
Ancelotti maintained that his desire is to lead Everton back into the Champions League - a competition he has won three times as a manager but which Everton have not qualified for since 2005.
The Italian added that he misses participating in the tournament which he considers the best in world football:
On Champions League: “I think it’s the best competition in the world. As I said when I arrived here, to take Everton into the Champions League is a fantastic motivation for me personally. It’s a great desire.
“This is the target that we have for the future; I don’t know how long it’s going to take. I hope soon we can play games in the Champions League because it’s the best competition in the world.”
Ancelotti also gave a ringing endorsement of James Rodriguez, after his masterful display in Sunday’s 3-0 win over Wednesday.
Rodriguez got his sixth and seventh assists of the campaign in that game - both from corners - and Ancelotti believes that his attacking colleagues Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison will benefit hugely from his return from injury:
“He [Rodriguez] was really good with the ball [on Sunday] and that’s what we ask of him. He made a lot of good passes and good set-pieces.”
“The fact he is back [means] Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison can take advantage.”