Everton manager Rafa Benitez is continuing to play his cards very close to his chest with regards to player selections. The Toffees were minus five first teamers for the season opener at Goodison Park against Southampton, and a couple of those players made it back into the squad for the trip to Leeds United. However, there has still been no word on when James Rodriguez, Andre Gomes and Ben Godfrey will be available again, though it’s still not quite clear if they are all on COVID isolation protocol and when their 10-day waiting period will end, or indeed if they are being held out for any other reasons.
With the Carabao Cup trip to Huddersfield Town following so closely after the Saturday draw at Leeds, Benitez omitted the customary pre-match press conference and spoke to evertontv directly, starting with the squad he would be selecting to take on the Championship side today.
“I would like to go through, I would like to play a strong team and compete and go through – yes, I would like to do that. Can I do it? We will have to wait, because we have to see if we have any knocks, injuries or any problems.
“I don’t want to lie - I said so many times. It depends on the squad, it depends on the situation [what team I will be able to select].
“Obviously, when we play games with this intensity, we have to take that into account.”
Immediately in the aftermath of the draw with Marcelo Bielsa’s side Benitez had mentioned that lead striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin was still struggling with his toe injury sustained in the preseason.
“We were also talking about Dominic earlier. We have some players in isolation, so we have to see when they come back and how they will be. Obviously, 10 days without training with the team, it is not easy to be fit for a competition game, it could be a risk.
“We have to analyse all these things before we reach that decision. Let’s see how the players feel. I would like to go through, do well, and I will try to pick a team that can do it.
“The schedule is too short now for us. Remember, our players they are coming back late, a lot of them, from the Euros, Copa America and Olympic Games. We have to consider all these things and still we are looking for solutions, different players until 31 August.”
That little throwaway nugget at the end there should tell us that the Blues will still be pursuing all options to bring in new players before deadline day in a week.