Carlo Ancelotti has revealed Abdoulaye Doucouré may make his return from injury in Sunday’s visit to West Ham United, but James Rodriguez will play no part in the match.
A toe injury has meant midfielder Doucouré, who joined Everton from Watford last summer, has not featured for the Blues since March 4.
But Ancelotti said at his pre-match press conference that he has made a positive recovery from the setback and is contention to feature against the high-flying Hammers this weekend:
“For this weekend, we have Doucouré back. After the injury he had, he recovered well and trained with the team. He’s available.
“James is not. He didn’t train; he’s starting his proper rehab and is going to train at the start of next week.”
Since Doucouré’s last game, a 1-0 win at West Brom two months ago, Everton have won just once in the Premier League, and Ancelotti feels part of their lean spell has been due to the Frenchman’s absence.
The Everton manager added that he has, in some ways, been surprised by just how well Doucouré has performed since joining in September:
“Really important [to have him back] because he showed fantastic quality; he has supported the team a lot when he played. It was a great surprise for us to have this kind of player; he put a lot of energy into midfield, and to have him back for the next game will be really important.
“I think, with Doucouré, we had fantastic results. Without him, we had more problems. He’s one of our most important players. I hope he can show this quality in the few games before the end.”
On Rodriguez, who was due to start last week’s home defeat to Aston Villa before an injury in the warm-up, Ancelotti was coy on precisely what his issue is.
But he admitted it does not appear too serious a problem, and hopes to have him available again for Thursday’s trip to Villa:
“It is a little problem. He didn’t train with the team this week. He trained alone following proper rehab. The plan is to start to train again at the beginning of next week.
“He is not available. There is the privacy of the medical situation so I don’t want to talk to you [about it]. I hope he will be available for the game against Aston Villa next week.”
On Saturday’s Villa loss, Ancelotti was at a loss to explain why Everton could not replicate their positive week of training beforehand on the pitch.
But he challenged his players to right the wrongs of their last match when they face David Moyes’ men on Sunday:
“I think what happened was not the feeling that I had during training. The training was good before Villa and we were not able to repeat it. We worked all week to prepare well for this game, to have a good feeling and to try to win.
“Of course, we are frustrated about the performance against Aston Villa. All the time, you have problems, you have to move forward, to give confidence to the players. I’m sure that the reaction will be fantastic for the game against West Ham.”
On West Ham, who have surprised everyone this season and sit three points off fourth with four games left, Ancelotti heaped praise on former Everton boss Moyes for the seismic turnaround he has overseen.
From narrowly surviving relegation last season, Moyes has left West Ham to the brink of Europe, and Ancelotti is expecting to face a side brimming with confidence in a game he feels is crucial in deciding Everton’s own destiny this year:
“I think it’s a vital game against West Ham because they are in the fight. They are in a better position than us at the moment, so it will be a really important result.
“We don’t have a lot of possibilities, but we still want to put all our energy into this game, which we consider vital for the end of the season.
“I think they have more confidence now compared to the start of the season. Last season was really difficult for them; they were close to relegation, and then in the second part of this season, I think they have more confidence.
“They are doing a fantastic season, and all the credit to David Moyes.