Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed Everton captain Seamus Coleman has returned to individual training but will be unable to feature for the Blues in Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off at Burnley (12.30pm GMT).
The 32-year-old is continuing his recovery from an injury sustained on international duty with the Republic of Ireland.
Lucas Digne remains sidelined for Everton after suffering an ankle ligament injury in training at USM Finch Farm last week. The Frenchman underwent surgery on Monday.
Midfielder Jean-Philippe Gbamin, meanwhile, is continuing his rehabilitation from an Achilles injury and is expected to return to First Team training this month.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference at USM Finch Farm, Ancelotti explained how injuries have been the key reason for altering the Blues' formation in recent games.
Since being appointed Everton manager in December 2019, the Italian has predominantly favoured a four-man backline.
He has switched to three in central defence, with wing-backs, for the Blues’ past two Premier League matches – a 3-2 win at Fulham and 1-0 defeat against Leeds United – and explained the importance of his team being comfortable operating in different systems.
“We are without two important players in Coleman and Digne,” Ancelotti added.
“It is for this reason [we have played with three at the back].
“I think we have the quality in the squad to play with three centre-backs.
“We have a lot of good central defenders.
“The fact we can play with three or four [at the back] is good for us.”
Ancelotti also revealed his confidence James Rodriguez is primed to showcase his sparkling attacking quality for Everton over the coming weeks.
James missed last month’s game at Newcastle United through injury, and has since had a long-haul trip to South America to perform for Colombia in World Cup qualifying matches.
Ancelotti says James is now approaching peak fitness, however, as Everton prepare for a hectic festive period which will see the Blues play seven matches in 23 days.
“James is in a good condition,” he said. “He had an injury problem, as everyone knows.
“But this week he trained well, properly, and he is back.
“You have to consider for this player to travel around the world and play international games is not easy.
“The fact he and the other international players are here until March could be good for them.”