Rafa Benitez admits he’ll be taking a risk with Dominic Calvert-Lewin if Everton are forced to play their Boxing Day fixture at Burnley.
Like many teams right now, Everton have been hit hard by covid cases in recent days – going from zero to five after the 1-1 draw at Chelsea last Thursday – but as things stand, there still aren’t enough to force their trip to Turf Moor to be postponed.
With his squad decimated, Blues boss Benitez has 11 players unavailable in total due to a further six injuries in addition to those out with the coronavirus, there could be additional demands on those who can play, such as Calvert-Lewin who hasn’t featured due to a quadriceps injury since he scored his third goal of the season in as many matches in the 2-0 victory at Brighton & Hove Albion back on August 28.
Benitez said: “In the case of any player who has been out for around two months, he can be ‘fit’ but I was explaining about match fitness and fitness.
“When it comes to playing a game that is totally different. It will take time for him to have the sharpness you have to have in a game.
“Physically he is fine, he has been training with the team. Still it is a risk because you cannot overload these players.
“It is the same with players who have issues like Seamus Coleman and Allan – you are managing them now. Maybe you have to take the risk I don’t know. It is complicated for us to make the right decision.”
Benitez added: “For Dominic to be fully fit he will still need, for me, two or three weeks.
“That will give him match fitness and maybe a bit more to ensure he is at his maximum but the good thing about football is that sometimes when you cannot run you can still score the winning goal and that is massive for your confidence and everyone else.”
An increased burden on Calvert-Lewin, who was last season’s top scorer with 21 goals in all competitions, is the lack of senior alternatives in his position given that four of Everton’s six injured players are forwards.