Carlo Ancelotti is optimistic over Jean-Philippe Gbamin’s prospects of featuring for Everton before the end of this season.
Midfielder Gbamin is closing on the final phase of his rehabilitation from a serious Achilles injury sustained in May last year.
The Ivorian had a large part of his first Goodison Park campaign wiped out by a quadriceps problem, suffered soon after joining the Club from Mainz in August 2019.
Everton are adopting a safety-first policy to Gbamin’s recovery, with a view to an uninterrupted long-term comeback for the 25-year-old.
Ancelotti – who also expressed confidence in his team’s ability to compensate for the absence of the dynamic Abdoulaye Doucoure – insists Everton will continue to err on the side of caution with Gbamin, who scarcely missed a game for either Mainz or previous club Lens.
But the Italian manager is keenly anticipating Gbamin launching his Everton career in earnest, after only two appearances before injury struck.
“To play this season is realistic, not in the next few games, but before the end of the season, we hope he can play,” said Ancelotti.
“We have no concerns [about Gbamin’s long-term fitness], it will take time.
“He was never injured [at his former clubs], then he came here and had a lot of problems, so he was really unlucky.
“But we think we are on the right way.
“He started to train individually.
"We are taking care of him and don’t want to put pressure on him to recover – and we hope everything will be okay.”
Doucoure, meanwhile, is fighting to return before the end of this campaign after fracturing a bone in his foot.
The rangy Frenchman has started all 25 Premier League games for which he’s been available since signing from Watford in last summer’s transfer window.
It is impossible, concedes Ancelotti, to directly replace Doucoure’s hard-running style.
But Everton have successfully flexed and schemed to circumnavigate previous absences and will be equally fluid in their effort to cover the hole left by Doucoure.
“We don’t have other players with the characteristics of Doucoure but we can play a different way,” said Ancelotti.
“There are others who can play in midfield.
“Mason Holgate can play in midfield, also Tom Davies [who came back from a two-game layoff to feature as a substitute at Chelsea on Monday.
“Bernard can play in midfield, not as a holding midfielder but if we play three midfielders, Bernard can play as one of the three, no problem.”