Everton are preparing for the short drive up the M30 to take on Premier League defending champions Manchester City in Saturday’s early fixture, but unfortunately for Sean Dyche’s threadbare squad, there’s little to be positive about from an injury standpoint with a number of key players still likely to miss the game.
Idrissa Gueye returned from the Africa Cup of Nations last week after Senegal’s surprise elimination and was immediately drafted into the side that drew 2-2 against Tottenham Hotspur. Without him, the Blues were down to just James Garner as a senior midfielder in the side.
Amadou Onana picked up an injury in the FA Cup defeat against Luton Town, Andre Gomes couldn’t finish the Third Round replay against Palace in the middle of January, and attacking lynchpin Abdoulaye Doucoure was out with thigh issues through early last month, featured in just one game against Aston Villa and then picked up another similar issue and has been out since. Dele underwent surgery after facing another setback in his recovery and it’s very unlikely we will see him again in Everton colours.
Speaking during his pre-game press conference, Dyche provided a squad update but the only change in status was that Onana might be available to feature.
“Not Doucs, not Danjuma, not Andre Gomes - he won’t be back.
“On a better note, Youngy continues to get fully fit. Seamus would have had a full week’s training with the team, which is good.
“Amadou has been back out on the grass, and we will pick the team accordingly. But better signs and progress from the injured players, and Doucs is on the grass. Not with us [the squad] but he is making a good progress.”
The Blues will have it all to do against a City side that is ramping up for their annual march to the top of the table every spring with key midfielder Kevin De Bruyne fit again and star striker Erling Haaland also regaining full fitness.
The Toffees manager will have to watch the game at the Etihad from the stands after picking up his third yellow card of the season in the Goodison clash against Spurs last weekend, and Dyche blasted the refereeing standards which have plummeted in recent seasons leading to his touchline ban.
“The only thing I was disappointed with was that it was three really bad decisions from a referee. I’ve been booked for three really bad decisions, I think there should be a bit more tolerance.
“The fourth official is there and if they see, deep down, that they’re thinking ‘the ref might have that one wrong,’ I don’t see why you’re booked for it.
“That’s the moment that I think they should use some of their game understanding and think ‘right, just come back in here, listen, you maybe got that one wrong but we need you to stay in the technical area or whatever.’ I think that can be a calming down moment, I don’t think I should get three yellow cards for those moments because they’re factually bad decisions.”
Dyche went on to explain why he disagreed with the decisions to book him.
“Sometimes you have a human response when you see a decision, especially when it’s tight games and the important ones – Konate away at Liverpool, I think everyone in the stadium knew what was going to happen and it didn’t – and I get booked for that. The one the other day, I think everyone in the stadium can see a possible penalty, you can’t decide for sure but a possible penalty and it doesn’t even get looked at and then 30 seconds or a minute later another foul on the edge of the box which is an absolute foul.
“You go ‘well it’s a human response.’ Maybe I’d suggest the fourth officials on any given occasion could probably realise that.
“They don’t have to agree with me but could go ‘right, okay, just slow yourself down, get back in’ just calm the moment down. Whereas if you’re going outside your box and doing what you’re doing all the time, then that’s different, that’s of your own fault, your own accord but not when it’s something like that I don’t feel.”