Benitez On Squad Illness And Injuries For Burnley

Rafa Benitez says he is “really surprised” Everton's Boxing Day game at Burnley is due to go ahead after revealing the Club have just nine senior outfield players available due to positive COVID-19 cases and injuries.

The limited squad availability led to the Club applying to the Premier League for the Turf Moor clash to be postponed.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, he said: “We have six injuries and five players with COVID.

“I am really surprised we are playing this game.

“We have followed all the rules, we have done lateral flows every day, we do the PCRs and we have worn the masks. We have players in three different dressing rooms [to reduce the risk of transmission].

"But we cannot control if you go to a game, if a player is positive but has not got any symptoms, he can pass the virus to the others. After we played against Chelsea, we found we have five positives. 

“We have nine outfield players and three keepers. And then we have to bring five new young players into the team, who are not even 21 years old.

"We have players who have knocks and we have to push them. Dominic [Calvert-Lewin] has been out for two months and maybe has to play for 90 minutes.

"It is a massive risk."

Everton go into the Burnley game on the back of an impressive 1-1 draw with high-flying Chelsea last time out.

Benitez explained his “main focus” is now on assessing the players at his disposal and shaping a strategy for Sunday’s contest.

“We have to wait to see which players are available,” he added.

“It is a difficult situation. When you talk about what is going on and the number of COVID cases in the country, we will have more and more cases every day.

“I don’t know the conditions of every club. I know our situation, we have six injuries, five players with COVID and now we have to pick players who have been out for a while or young players, and we have to take a risk putting them on the pitch and possibly in different positions.

“It will not be easy and I think it is not fair.

"What teams around Burnley and around us [in the Premier League table] will think in terms of the integrity of the league, I don’t know. Clearly, in this case, it is a surprise that we have to play this game.

"Now, I have to think about if I have 11 players fit and where can I put them."