Rafael Benitez is said to be surprised that Everton’s request to postpone the match against Burnley was rejected by the Premier League after being left with nine senior movement players due to a Covid-19 outbreak.
The Spaniard revealed that five members of his squad had tested positive since the 1-1 draw at Chelsea on 16 December, while his resources are further exhausted by the injuries of six other players, including Brazilian striker Richarlison.
Everton now appear to be relying on youth to ensure the game on Turf Moor on Boxing Day goes on as planned.
“With the injuries and the positives we had, we expected the game to be postponed,” said Benitez.
“Now I have to think if I have 11 suitable players and where can I put them, so I am really surprised that we are playing this game.
“The problem is that we have nine outfield players plus three goalkeepers and then we have to bring in five young players who are not even 21 years old. They seem to have enough experience to play in the Premier League.”
The Premier League last Thursday agreed to postpone Liverpool’s game against Leeds United and the game between Wolves and Watford, both scheduled for Boxing Day.
Benitez says he may be forced to include striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin after four months out with injury, initially due to a broken toe and then a thigh problem.
“It’s dangerous enough for us and maybe someone has to take responsibility,” Benitez said. “It’s not me, the coach, who want to play the best players every game.
“These players later [being out for] months maybe they have to play 90 minutes so we expose them.
“But someone has to consider due to the circumstances of this match, we have to play with players who may not be ready or players who have some blows or problems, it is a difficult decision for us.
“I am happy to see Dominic train with the team and I hope he can be well. My main task now is to find 11 players in the right positions to be able to compete against Burnley, it is not easy.”
Everton’s previous game, Leicester City’s visit last Sunday, was postponed due to a Covid outbreak in the visiting team.
On Thursday, executives and captains will meet with the Premier League to discuss issues relating to the pandemic.
What are the Premier League rules on postponements?
The 2021/22 Premier League manual includes the Covid protocols and states that the Premier League board of directors “will only allow the reorganization or postponement of a league game in exceptional circumstances”.
The board makes calls on a case-by-case basis and, as an indication, the Premier League says that authorization for a postponement will not be granted if a club has 14 or more players available on their roster.
Which Premier League matches have been canceled?
Brighton-Tottenham – Sunday 12 December, Premier League
Brentford vs Man Utd – Tuesday 14 December, Premier League
Burnley v Watford – Wednesday 15 December, Premier League
Leicester vs Tottenham – Thursday 16 December, Premier League
Man Utd vs Brighton – Saturday 18 December, Premier League
Southampton-Brentford – Saturday 18 December, Premier League
Watford vs Crystal Palace – Saturday 18 December, Premier League
West Ham vs Norwich – Saturday 18 December, Premier League
Aston Villa vs Burnley – Saturday 18 December, Premier League
Everton-Leicester – Sunday 19 December, Premier League
Liverpool-Leeds – Sunday 26 December, Premier League
Wolves versus Watford – Sunday 26 December, Premier League