Everton boss Rafa Benitez is expected to be without 11 players – five due to Covid – for the team’s Premier League game against Burnley at Turf Moor on Gift Day
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Injuries and positive Covid results have left the Spaniard with only nine outfield players and three goalkeepers to choose from.
Five members of Everton’s squad have tested positive for Covid following their previous draw Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on December 16.
Benitez is also absent from six senior players due to injury, including Richarlison, Andros Townsend and Yerry Mina.
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The Burnley vs Toffees match could still be postponed as two Boxing Day matches have been postponed due to Covid.
“Given the injuries and the positivity that we have, we hope that the game will be postponed,” said Benitez.
“Now I have to think about whether I have the right 11 players and where can I put them so I’m really surprised we’re playing this game.”
With the number of Covid cases exceeding 100,000 a day in the UK, many are surprised that Premier League matches continue to be held.
“The risk of having someone around [in society in general] with a rather large virus,” added Benitez. It’s amazing that we’re still playing. “
If the game goes on, Benitez could be forced to bring back Dominic Calvert-Lewin from injury.
The England international has not played since August due to thigh complaints but is close to returning to fitness.
“We have players who have the ability to attack, we have to push them and we have to play players who may not be the right fit,” added Benitez.
“Who will be responsible if something goes wrong? My main job now is to find 11 players in the right position where they can compete with Burnley, it’s not easy.”
Benitez may have to deploy grads again, with a number of young players helping Everton earn a 1-1 draw against Chelsea.
“I know what young players can do,” said the manager. “We knew exactly what to expect from them and we could see that. They worked hard to manage a difficult situation.
“I’m very happy with the team’s performance at Chelsea. The team spirit, the way the players work on the pitch, the commitment of everyone.”
Perhaps the only good news for Everton fans is the future of Lucas Digne, with Benitez confirming the player is part of his plans.
Benitez said: “Digne is available at the moment for Burnley.
“I want to be clear from the start, Lucas Digne has been an important player for us. He has worked hard in training and playing. I was surprised by the situation.”