Rafael Benitez says Everton are ‘much better’ following the club’s Covid outbreak and has discussed Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s return to fitness.
Everton have not played since the 1-1 draw at Chelsea on December 16, with each of the Toffees past three Premier League fixtures postponed as a result of Covid-related absences and injuries that left the Blues with just nine senior outfield players available.
Benitez’s side are set to face Brighton during the New Year’s Day action and the Spaniard has revealed his squad is in a healthier position than in recent weeks.
“We are getting better,” said Benitez at his pre-match press conference. “Obviously, we had issues with COVID and these players that have had problems are coming back and have been training, so we are much better.
“We cannot give names, we cannot give numbers but in terms of COVID, we have less problems.
“In terms of injuries, we are also bringing players back – still, we have some issues, but we are much better now.
“We have enough players and we want to play. When you cannot, you cannot – but when you have the possibility to play, we try to play.”
Benitez also provided an update on the fitness of Calvert-Lewin, who has not played since August as a result of ongoing injury problems.
The 24-year-old – who finished as Everton’s leading scorer with 21 goals in all competitions last season – is in contention to feature against the Seagulls following his return to first-team training.
“Dominic is training with the team,” the Spaniard added. “I’ve explained before that one thing is match fitness that you can improve by playing games and the other thing is fitness.
“Fitness-wise he is getting better… Match-fitness, we will see. Maybe he scores three goals in the first half and we don’t need to worry about his match fitness but I think the issue will be how long he can play if he starts the game or, if he comes from the bench, how much impact he can have on the game.
“We are considering all of these things but he is training really well and he is really happy because he is with the team and is ready to play and score goals.”