Benitez braced for ‘difficult’ Calvert-Lewin decision; provides Digne update

Everton boss Rafael Benitez during their match against Watford, October 2021

Rafael Benitez may be able to welcome back Dominic Calvert-Lewin for Everton over the festive period, but could be doing so sooner than he would like to.

Calvert-Lewin has not featured for Everton since August due to injury. He has been a big miss for Benitez’s side. Now, the striker is nearing a return to action. However, other circumstances may affect the manager’s plans for him.

Benitez is dealing with a lack of personnel as he approaches Everton’s Boxing Day trip to face Burnley. Therefore, Calvert-Lewin could have more responsibilities than Benitez would like to give him at this stage of his reintegration.

“It’s quite dangerous for us; maybe someone has to take responsibility,” said Benitez.

“It’s not me, the manager, that wants to play the best players every game but someone has to consider that because of the circumstances of this game, we have to play players that maybe are not ready, maybe have some knocks or some issues or maybe have to play out of position.

“It’s a difficult decision for us but I’m happy to see Dominic training with the team and hopefully he will be fine.”

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Overall, though, Benitez thinks the Premier League should have postponed their upcoming fixture.

The rules stipulate that as long as clubs have 13 fit outfield players and a goalkeeper, they can fulfil their fixtures. Benitez says he has nine outfield players available and three goalkeepers. Therefore, he does not think it is fair for them to be playing against Burnley.

“We have six injuries and five players with Covid,” said Benitez. “I think it is not fair.

“With the injuries and the positives we had, we were expecting that the game would be postponed. Now I have to think about if I have 11 players fit and where can I put them. So I am really surprised that we are playing this game.

“We have players who have knocks. We have to push them and we have to play players that are maybe not fit. Who will take responsibility if something happens?

“My main job now is to find 11 players in the right positions that they can compete against Burnley. It’s not easy.”

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Benitez could bring Digne back in

Rafa Benitez hugging Lucas Digne

One of the players who could be available is Lucas Digne. The left-back has been linked with a move away from the club after a clash with Benitez in training.

The Frenchman has not played since December 1st and rumours have been swirling about the club signing Vitaliy Mykolenko to replace him.

Benitez would not comment on their pursuit of the Dynamo Kyiv player. But he confirmed Digne is in contention to play against Burnley as things stand.

“At the moment, yes,” he said.

“I don’t know what will happen before the game, but at the moment, yes.

“I want to be very clear: from the very beginning Lucas has been a key player for us.

“He’s an important player and is working hard during games and training. It’s not about the manager or the player, it’s about the fans and the club.

“Lucas is our player. The other players in the market, everyone can talk about that, but my main concern is to concentrate on the players I have and the players that are available.

“Lucas is one of these players, so hopefully he could be available.”

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