Carlo Ancelotti has admitted losing midfielder Abdoulaye Doucouré to injury is a huge blow to Everton, but has faith his team can get by in the Frenchman’s absence.
Doucouré has been a stand-out since joining Everton from Watford in September, but suffered a foot injury in last week’s win at West Brom which will see him miss much of, if not all of, the rest of the season.
But Ancelotti is not panicking, saying all clubs have to contend with injuries, and pointed to how Everton managed reasonably well without Allan and Lucas Digne already this term.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference ahead of tomorrow’s home game against Burnley, he said:
“Doucouré had a small fracture on his foot so he has to stay out. I don’t know how long; maybe eight, ten weeks. I hope he can recover before the end of the season.
“We are not happy for this. Doucouré did really well. He’s an important player for us, but we are not the only club who has to manage injuries. In this period, there are a lot of injuries, so we have to manage this.
“We were able to manage the injuries to Allan and Digne for a long time, so we will be able. We have Tom Davies back, we have Seamus Coleman back, we have Yerry Mina back. I think we can manage.”
Ancelotti also confirmed Robin Olsen is in line to return to the matchday squad tomorrow, having been absent lately with a small injury.
News broke this week that Olsen and his family were threatened with a machete during a break-in at their home, but Ancelotti felt it was not his place to delve too deeply into clearly a private issue:
“He had a problem physically and he started training this week. We have to check today if he’s good and if can be available for the game tomorrow.
“The other thing that happened is a private matter, so I don’t want to go there. It’s difficult to say something. Everyone is really sad for this, and the club is working on this, to keep the safety of the players, and of everyone working here, at the top level.”
Other than long-term absentees Fabian Delph and Jean-Philippe Gbamin, Ancelotti said Gylfi Sigurdsson may also miss tomorrow’s game, and again ruled out James Rodriguez.
The Everton boss revealed that Rodriguez played February’s games against Manchester United and Liverpool despite not being fully fit, and he is now allowing him to get back up to speed ahead of the season’s run-in after the March international break:
“Delph and James are not available. We have to check Sigurdsson in training today - he had a problem on his ankle in the last game.
“There are a lot of rumours around James - James played really well against Manchester United, he scored, he played really well against Liverpool, but he wasn’t 100 per cent fit. He had little problems.
“We are going to have really important games to the end of the season, so we decided to give him a proper recovery and not let him play at 70, 80 per cent. He has to recover. When he is 100 per cent, he’s going to play again. We’ve taken this decision together, no problem.
“Of course, the player wants to play, but it’s better for him to solve this problem and be ready for the end of the season. I think that can be after the break, so it’s not a big problem. With the same problems, he played against Liverpool and United.
“It is his goal, to have more consistency in performances. The start of the season was really good, then he started to travel [with Colombia]. But our goal is to give him the possibility to improve his condition and to play with consistency.
“We have to consider also that the last few years for him were not so easy. He didn’t play a lot of games. If he’s able to play with consistency, that could be good for our squad. What he did when he played, even when his condition was not so good, was really fantastic.”
On Burnley, who held Everton to a 1-1 draw at Turf Moor in December, Ancelotti declared himself a big fan of Sean Dyche’s preferred 4-4-2 system, a formation he knows well from his time playing for and working as assistant boss to Arrigo Sacchi.
Burnley’s visit to Goodison Park last season was Ancelotti’s first match in charge of Everton; a 1-0 win earned through a late Dominic Calvert-Lewin header.
And while Ancelotti is certain Everton have made great strides since that game on Boxing Day of 2019, he is expecting a similarly tough test from the Clarets tomorrow:
“I like their style of play a lot, because they play a clear 4-4-2. I was born into 4-4-2 with Sacchi, as a player and as his assistant. Burnley explain really well how you have to play 4-4-2.
“For their style of play, I respect Burnley, because they are not inventing new football but they are playing a really good 4-4-2. Football was already invented a long time ago, and I think the managers who try to invent football are wrong.
“I have a good memory [of his first game in charge]. We won at the end with a fantastic goal from Dominic. The reception I had was one of the best moments of my career. It was a difficult game, and it will be a difficult game tomorrow.
“I think the team has improved [since then]. Of course, we are in a better position, we are fighting for positions in Europe, we’ve signed good players to improve the squad. We are on the right way to what we want to achieve in the future.”