Boss On Transfer Plans And Brighton Test

Rafa Benitez has revealed Everton are “working hard to bring in two or three players” during the January transfer window – but insists his focus is currently on preparing his side for the challenges Brighton & Hove Albion will pose at Goodison Park on Sunday.

The Blues boss also described Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s return to fitness as “a massive signing”, with the striker in line to return to action after four months out with a quadricep injury.

Everton’s past three scheduled matches have been postponed due to positive COVID-19 cases in the Blues’ and opposition squads. Sunday’s contest, therefore, will be Everton’s first game since a depleted Toffees side battled to a 1-1 draw at Chelsea on 16 December

Benitez says his squad is now in a “much better” place with several important players available again – and also outlined his confidence Everton will further bolster their ranks in January.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Benitez explained: “We are working hard [to sign players]. 

“At the same time, everyone knows how difficult the transfer window is in January, but we are still working hard to try and find some targets to improve the team.

“Also, what we’ve noticed talking with different teams is that everyone is a little bit worried with COVID-19, so nobody wants to spend too much money. That is complicated but I am quite confident that we will do two or three things.

“We are trying to find the right players for positions not just for the present, but also for the future. 

“I'm sure we will bring two or three players and we will bring the kind of players that want to be here, which is the main thing for me.”

Benitez confirmed Calvert-Lewin – Everton’s top goalscorer last term and winner of the Club’s 2020/21 Player and Players’ Player of the Season awards – has resumed full training with his Toffees teammates.

He is set to feature on Sunday for the first time since the Blues’ 2-0 win at Brighton on 28 August, when he was on target from the penalty spot. 

Benitez did not reveal whether Calvert-Lewin would start at Goodison or be named among the substitutes – but believes the 24-year-old’s return will give Everton's attack a new dimension.

“I can say that he's a massive signing for us for the second part of the league,” Benitez said.

“He is training well and he is really happy because he is with the team. He’s ready to play and score goals.

“If you remember, the top scorers of this team last year [Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison] have not always been playing this season. 

“If we bring Dominic back and bring back a few weeks later Richarlison…I think the second part of the league can be something totally different.”

Everton’s success at Brighton early in the season represented one of just four occasions Graham Potter’s team have been beaten in the Premier League so far this term – and the Seagulls will go into the Goodison clash buoyed by a stoppage-time equaliser at Chelsea on Wednesday night.

Benitez is primed for a difficult test and set out the qualities his team will need to show to achieve maximum points on Sunday.

“When we played against them in the first part of the league, we did quite well,” he said.

“At that time, Brighton were in a situation where they were not losing any games. Now, they have drawn some games but have still had chances in them to win – but, also, they can concede. Hopefully we can be strong in defence and a threat in attack and get the three points.

“Graham Potter is doing a good job. They have a way to play, and they can change the system and still play in this way. They are in a good position in the Premier League and playing with a lot of confidence. It will be a tough game for us.”

On returning to Goodison for the first time since Everton’s dramatic 2-1 win over Arsenal on 6 December, Benitez added: “We are really pleased to play in front of our fans. We have been talking about how important the fans are for us. 

“They know we need them. Hopefully we can play a good game and we can win, and they can enjoy the game. 

“We have confidence we can do well and, with the fans behind us, it will be easier for us.”