Everton’s stunning collapse last weekend to go from leading a game 2-1 up to a final score of 5-2, that too at home against a Watford side likely to get relegated at the end of the season has certainly set the cat amongst the pigeons in Everton’s world.
The absence of midfield lynchpin Abdoulaye Doucoure, who tends to get stronger as games go on, was certainly felt late on last week and speaking during his pre-match press conference today, Rafa Benitez provided an update on when the French midfielder is expected back.
“Doucoure was doing really well in the middle of the pitch, so to lose him in these games is important for any team.
“Even the top sides with big squad, if you lose some key players you suffer a little bit.
“Doucoure is getting better, it seems like he’s progressing well. I cannot say how long exactly, but at least a couple of weeks.
“With the international break, hopefully after he will be fine. Yes, it’s a big miss for us, but at the same time it’s an opportunity for other players to show their level.”
Tom Davies was used as a like-for-like replacement for Doucoure, and started off well scoring in the opening minutes of the game, but was responsible for a number of errors as were other players, with the Blues looking at sixes and sevens every time the hornets attacked late on.
Richarlison came on as a substitute and made an immediate impact, scoring the Blues’ second goal. The manager said he was still not fully fit but with the Toffees playing on Monday he still had some time.
“He’s been getting better, we will see how much he can improve. In terms of his fitness he will not be 100% but he’s getting better.
“If you think about the top scorers last year, he was one of the top scorers. He plays well and has the ability to beat players and score goals. When you have a player who has done so well last year and is a key player for you, and he was good for us at the beginning of the season, you can miss him, or he can be a big boost for the team if he’s coming back and scoring goals like the other day.”
Andre Gomes and Fabian Delph are still out, while Yerry Mina’s participation appears in doubt after not training much during the week, but Benitez wouldn’t divulge their status.
“We still have two training sessions. Some of them are nearly coming back, but I think it’s too early to say who will be there. We are waiting for some medical assessments and after that we will see if someone else can come back.”