There was disappointing news for fans in today’s pre-match press conference ahead of Everton's trip to Manchester United. Hopes had been raised from recent training images that we might see the return to game time for Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Seamus Coleman and possibly Richarlison. Those three have been sorely missed despite the positive result against Norwich City. Rafa Benitez confirmed however that they and also Andre Gomes would not be taking part against United tomorrow afternoon.
Indeed, Alex Iwobi has been declared a doubt also and it remains to be seen whether he will be able to make the squad.
"I will say that he has a little problem, I don't know if he will be available for tomorrow.
"I think the fans appreciate that he's giving everything on the pitch, we are working with him specifically on movement. I think he's improving, and we can still improve him."
One positive is the return to fitness of Jean-Philippe Gbamin. The injury-prone Ivory Coast international maybe feels he has a point to prove to assure fans that he is finally back to fitness and that he has also been able to set aside the distraction this week of his court appearance. In the video released by Everton in the last few days he certainly looked sharp and very much involved in the planning for this important weekend before the international break.
"JP is training again so is fully fit, he's ok.
"Some players are still not available, but Gbamin is good news because we needed bodies."
A small concern might be that, during the conference, no question asked nor mention made of Jordan Pickford who seemed to have a reaction to his recent shoulder injury during the Norwich game. It was noticeable that both Asmir Begovic and Andy Lonergan were the goalkeepers in the thick of the training action.
The Blues continue therefore to carry a high number of injured players and players like Salomon Rondon and Ben Godfrey who are playing out of necessity while neither is fully match-fit. On a positive note, Evertonians will be hopeful that following the international break, the likes of Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison will be available up front and Coleman can provide the natural defensive balance. Fingers crossed that there will be no new injuries on international duty and that the aforementioned trio will take their places in a strong squad for the West Ham game in 16 days’ time.