Xenia Sports – London
Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti is confident his side can cope without playmaker James Rodriguez after the Colombia international was ruled out of the visit of Chelsea.
The 29-year-old sustained a calf injury in last weekend’s draw with Burnley and has not trained all week and Ancelotti is not prepared to take a risk despite the obvious influence the South American has on his side.
Since his arrival from Real Madrid at the start of the season, Rodriguez has scored three Premier League goals and provided three assists but his contribution goes much deeper than that.
He instantly became the creative fulcrum and has missed only one league match – the defeat at Newcastle – but his team-mates are going to have to find another way having relied on him for so much already.
“He had a calf problem after Burnley and was not able to train so I don’t want to take a risk,” said Ancelotti.
“After the (Chelsea) game I will take a look to see if he can play against Leicester.
“James is a fantastic player for us, he did really well at the beginning and had some problems after the game against Liverpool, he travelled a lot with the national team and so his condition went a little bit down.
“But we have to be, and we will be, able to adapt to the fact that he is not able to play.
“We have a good squad, maybe we are going to play a little bit different, but I think that we are able to support the fact that he is not going to play tomorrow.”
Somewhat oddly Rodriguez has come in for some criticism for his lack of defensive support, no doubt heightened by Everton’s current run of one win in seven matches.
However, Ancelotti, whose defensive problems have been intensified by the absence of both first-choice full-backs Seamus Coleman and Lucas Digne with neither available again on Saturday, laughed it off.
“What can I say? I say that we have signed James not to defend,” he added.
“We have signed James to help the team have better quality in front. I think the job that he has done offensively was really good.
“Defensively of course we didn’t task him, I didn’t task him, with a lot of work. If you ask him a lot of work defensively, you’re going to lose him in front.
“It’s like what I ask of Richarlison, nothing different. They are more or less the same position, James on the right and Richarlison on the left, and I’m not going to ask them a lot of work defensively.”
Ancelotti comes up against the club he managed between 2009 and 2011, who coincidentally sacked him on the way home from a 1-0 defeat at Goodison Park on the final day of the season.
Frank Lampard played under Ancelotti at Stamford Bridge but will now attempt to out-coach him as a rival manager.
“He is doing really well. He has a fantastic squad and team, his job is really good,” said the Italian.
“Our relationship has changed. Before it was between manager and player, now it is between colleagues.
“I am pleased and happy to see him again.”