Everton’s hectic run of fixtures continues tomorrow, this time with a knockout clash against Tottenham Hotspur in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup. Speaking during his pre-match press conference today, manager Carlo Ancelotti updated the status of a couple of players in the squad.
“I have to wait for training this afternoon to check on some situations. One is James and one is Jordan. They are going to train and after that we will see.
“James had a tight calf [against Manchester United]. I took him off after 70 minutes to avoid risk. Now he will train today. If he’s ready to play tomorrow, he will play, and if the calf is still tight he will play in the next game on Sunday.
“Allan has started with the team. He is not ready yet but I hope he will be next game.”
With new signing Josh King cup-tied for the fixture tomorrow, Ancelotti is going to have limited options upfront with Alex Iwobi and Gylfi Sigurdsson likely to start. The manager went on to state the importance of keeping a cup-run going for the Blues.
“It is a crucial moment for everyone and an important period of the season. Now we are really focused on the game tomorrow, to reach the quarter-finals is really important for us.
“The players know the difficulties and beauty of this competition, maybe they know better than me. They have a great desire to be competitive: to play fantastic games in the Premier League: to fight for the top and to try to win cups. They are really young and want to have fantastic careers. You can have a fantastic career by winning trophies and competing at the top.”
Tottenham are having a bit of a topsy-turvy season, slipping from top spot in the Premier League early on - much like Everton - to almost midtable in recent weeks. Ancelotti however knows that with a manager like Jose Mourinho in charge, Spurs will not be a cakewalk.
“It will be difficult against Tottenham. They are a fantastic team, they have quality and strength in the squad, good organisation defensively and offensively and a good manager.
“But the last time against them was good and I hope we can repeat the game we had at the beginning of the season.
“We are prepared to fight and play a good game.”
The veteran manager acknowledged that his counterpart in the dugout is probably as desperate as he is to win a trophy.
“We are really close in ideas of football. It is an honour for me to be compared to Jose. He is a focused defensively and offensively, like I am. I think a Mourinho team is always in balance, which means they are doing a good job defensively and offensively.
“I know how much Evertonians want to win trophies. We are working on this, I don’t know if this season is the right time. What I can say, for sure, is we are doing everything to try to have trophies here as soon as possible.”
Dominic Calvert-Lewin looked to have hit a slump a month ago, but now with goals in consecutive games he looks to have ridden out that dip and is getting closer to the twenty-league-goals target that the manager had set him earlier in the season.
“I think he is back. He had a little bit of a problem, he lost some conditioning. Now his physicality is better, he did well, he scored two goals but could have had more, he had the opportunities. His movement was really good, also outside the box. He can continue [scoring].”
Robin Olsen had his first mistake that led to a goal since he has joined the club in the dramatic 3-3 thriller at Old Trafford against Manchester United. Is he part of Ancelotti’s long-term plans?
“As I said, I think he is a good signing. He is an experienced goalkeeper and we are happy with his performances. He made a mistake because I think he slipped but it doesn’t matter, he did really well against Leeds United.
“He is a goalkeeper we have trust and confidence in because he is a good goalkeeper.”
Everton’s away form has improved dramatically this season, much like every other team in the Premier League but the Blues have two home games coming up.
“I think it is clear without supporters in the stadium the home team does not have the advantage of having their supporters over their shoulders. The away team has this advantage, it’s quite simple, all the teams have had more difficulties at home than away.
“The fact we had a good run when we played away means we have more confidence when we play away. We won a lot of games away showing good football and character. Where we have to improve is at home.”