Carlo Ancelotti insists midfielder Jean-Philippe Gbamin will emerge from his injury setbacks a “stronger character” and grow into a key Everton performer.
Gbamin’s return following a long-term Achilles problem was placed on ice after the Ivorian sustained a knee injury during training last week.
He will be joined on the sidelines by Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who is nursing an abductor niggle, when Everton host Tottenham Hotspur on Friday for what Ancelotti is labelling a “vital” Premier League encounter.
Ancelotti is confident of navigating a way around the absence of Calvert-Lewin – the striker is expected back for next week’s visit to Arsenal – after Everton won at Wolverhampton Wanderers and Liverpool without the England international in their starting XI.
The plan for Gbamin, meantime, is a complete pre-season ahead of next term after it was confirmed the player doesn’t require surgery to correct his medial collateral ligament issue.
“He is a strong guy, with strong character,” said Ancelotti, who recovered from having two years of his own playing career wiped out by injury to win multiple European Cups and domestic titles.
“He was able to manage the injuries last season and at the beginning of this season.
“His character is so strong and he will be stronger after these unlucky situations.
“It will help him for his career, for sure, his [strong] character.”
Everton need only one more point to equal last season’s tally of 49.
But for Ancelotti and his players, the target is to go to bed on Friday night sitting on 51 points, above Tottenham and only four points behind the top four.
Their cause will likely be aided by returns for midfielders Allan and Andre Gomes, Jordan Pickford in goal, and, after sitting out the draw at Brighton & Hove Albion on Monday with a back problem, forward Joshua King.
“It is an option [up front] with Josh back,” said Ancelotti.
“The absence of Dominic is important but in front we have options and were able to play some games without him and do well.
“We dropped some points in the past few games and absolutely have to get the result against Tottenham.
“It [the match] is vital but all eight games we have to play are vital, we have to play against teams fighting with us for that European position.
“To judge our season, we have to wait until the end.
“It could be a fantastic season if we are able to reach Europe.”
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Ancelotti conceded the volume of injuries was presenting a unique challenge after Everton successfully overcame individual absences earlier in the campaign.
Equally, the Italian was keen to stress he is far from alone among Premier League bosses in being deprived of a long list of players.
He is phlegmatic, too, about the nature of problems that struck down Lucas Digne, Abdoulaye Doucoure and, most recently, Gbamin.
“Those injuries are really difficult to avoid, because [they were the result] of contact and you cannot avoid contact in football,” said Ancelotti.
The Everton manager is buoyed by the probable returns of a handful of high-tariff performers, confident the likes of Gomes and Allan will immediately find their match legs.
The team’s durability in an arm-wrestle at Brighton is another reason for optimism.
“Against Brighton, physically we were good, and the players coming back from injury are in good condition,” said Ancelotti.
“They don’t need to play minutes to be fit – they are already fit.
“We have some players out but the squad is better [than for the Brighton game] and we can compete against Tottenham.
“It was a difficult period for us, with a lot of injures. But we have to manage it… the fight for European positions is there and we have to fight until the last game.”
Ancelotti, whose side have beaten Tottenham twice this season, including a rollercoaster 5-4 FA Cup victory in February, added: “Tottenham have fantastic quality in front and could score but we can score, also.
“It is hard to predict what will happen.
“We have improved, we are in a good position compared to last season.
“The team improved its knowledge and character and personality and we had some good results.
“It would be good to reach our target.”