Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed midfielder Andre Gomes is fit and available for Sunday’s Premier League clash with Liverpool behind closed doors at Goodison Park (7pm).
Speaking at his pre-match press conference on Friday afternoon – which was conducted via video conference – Ancelotti said Gomes has returned to training without any issues after missing last Saturday’s intra-squad practice match with a minor knock.
Yerry Mina and Fabian Delph will be unable to feature in the behind-closed-doors Merseyside derby game as they continue their recoveries from muscle injuries.
Theo Walcott is out after undergoing abdominal surgery last week while Jean-Philippe Gbamin is a long-term absentee for Everton having suffered an Achilles injury.
Portugal international Gomes featured in Everton’s final three matches before the Premier League was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, having recovered from ankle surgery.
Manager Ancelotti explained how his availability for Sunday’s contest represents a significant boost.
“Andre is really important for us,” he said.
“He came back before the lockdown. He needed time to perform at his best.
“But now he is fit, in good condition and he is comfortable on the pitch.
“We are really pleased that he is back.”
Everton resumed full contact training at USM Finch Farm three weeks ago.
Ancelotti outlined the challenges in preparing his squad for a hectic spell of top-flight football, which will see the Blues play nine matches in 35 days.
“Usually when you come back from a long period [without competitive football] you have around five weeks to prepare the team,” he said.
“But I think the physical condition of the team is good enough to play a good game.
“We gave the players programmes to follow at home [during lockdown]. They came back to training well.
“We have some problems with Yerry Mina, who will not be able to play against Liverpool, with Fabian Delph also.
“Theo Walcott had surgery last week and, of course, we have the problem with Jean-Philippe Gbamin.”
Ivory Coast international Gbamin suffered a cruel blow upon Everton’s return to training, sustaining an Achilles tendon injury which Ancelotti says will keep him out of action for “four or five months”.
The midfielder had already missed the majority of the 2019/20 campaign after undergoing quadriceps surgery.
Ancelotti says he believes Gbamin boasts the mental strength to return stronger after the setback.
The Italian also explained how his personal recovery from major injuries should offer inspiration for the 24-year-old. Ancelotti overcame serious knee problems to play a central role in AC Milan’s double European Cup-winning team of late-1980s.
“Of course, Jean-Philippe is not happy,” Ancelotti said.
“But I think he is strong enough to be able to move on quickly. He is still very young.
“I had this feeling [in my career], two years out with injury, so I spoke with him. I said to take his time to recover well, to have a rest.
“The fact he recently he had a baby boy born can help him to be strong, and to do a proper recovery.”