Carlo Ancelotti is certain Everton’s gun front pairing of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison will be on song for a game against Brighton & Hove Albion on Monday the manager reckons is critical to his side’s European chances.
Everton paid a heavy price for having only one James Rodriguez goal to show for a succession of openings in Monday’s clash with Crystal Palace, the visitors striking late for a point.
Ancelotti, however, is drawing encouragement from the weight of opportunities created – a consequence of the silky James’ return from six weeks on the sidelines, in the Italian’s opinion – and pointing to his strikers’ goal return as evidence of the bigger picture.
Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison have 31 between them this term.
Both passed up chances to add to that tally before Palace equalised but, insists Ancelotti, can count on a helping hand from James when they bid to come out firing at Brighton.
“We talk about Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin – they are really good in the box, usually they are really clinical and they were this season, scoring a lot of goals,” said Ancelotti.
“In that situation, against Crystal Palace, they were not clinical.
“This is the truth.
"After that, what can I say to them? Nothing, because I am really satisfied with their seasons.
“If the team is able to give them the same chances they had against Crystal Palace, they are going to score.
“This season, when James is fit, we have more possibilities in front, more opportunities, because he has a lot of quality.
“Key passes, final passes, final shot.
“It is absolutely normal.
“We signed him for this reason: to have more opportunities in front.
“He has completely recovered, he is a player who improves his condition by playing.
“His condition is good and he is motivated.
“He showed this in the [Palace] game, not because he scored, but because he was involved in the play.”
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GBAMIN EXPLAINS FEELING ON EVERTON COMEBACK
Ancelotti, speaking in his pre-match press conference on Friday, confirmed Andre Gomes will miss the trip to Brighton after the Portuguese hurt his hamstring in the meeting with Palace.
Alex Iwobi is fit to return following a short layoff.
Allan, meanwhile, is pushing for inclusion after rejoining First-Team training today.
Fellow midfielder Jean-Phillippe Gbamin is available after a substitute’s outing this week spelled the end of a long absence.
“Jean-Philippe Gbamin can play because he is training well, [but] he is not used to the intensity of the Premier League,” said Ancelotti.
“We have to take care of this.
“With our medical staff, we have to decide how long he can play.
“He will be a fantastic midfielder, for sure… he has all the quality to be a top midfielder.”
Everton have collected their Premier League points away from home at a rate of more than two per game this season.
That return, insists Ancelotti, “is why we are in the European fight”.
And Everton will aim to strengthen their claims for a top-six finish with a 10th win on the road – and first success at Brighton’s Amex Stadium.
“We have to accept the result [against Palace] and keep the performance, which was much better compared to the past games, then try to win the next games,” said Ancelotti.
“It is a big fight for the European positions and we are there.
“For us, the game is vital to try to reach the target of Europe.
“For Brighton it is the same, to try to avoid relegation.”
The future of Joshua King, whose short-term deal expires at the end of the season, remains up for discussion, said Ancelotti.
King, added the former Real Madrid boss, is training well and only missing out on action because of a switch in formation resulting from midfield injuries.
Looking longer-term, Ancelotti had kind words for Everton’s Academy following the Under-18s' FA Youth Cup victory at Manchester City last week.
He said: “We have a good Academy… a lot of young players are working with us in this moment because some First-Team players are injured.
“We have payers with talent.
“We have a good future from our Academy and I hope soon we will have more [homegrown players in senior squad]… for the future of this club.”