Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti looks like having to find yet another way to win as he prepares to be without his two main creative outlets Richarlison and James Rodriguez at Sheffield United.
Richarlison is set to sit out the game under concussion protocols after taking a heavy blow to the head in the midweek Carabao Cup quarter-final defeat to Manchester United, while Rodriguez will miss a fifth successive match with a calf problem.
The Toffees are on a three-match winning run in the Premier League, lifting them up to fourth, with their all centre-back defence conceding just once in that time.
While that has resulted in a reduction in chances created, in stark contrast to the way they started the season, it has still brought success.
But having two of his best forwards out and also missing the midfield anchor of Allan – sidelined by a hamstring problem – means Ancelotti has to come up with a way of getting their replacements to continue the good form.
“Without Richarlison we know it will be difficult. If he had a concussion he has to stay out – we have to follow the protocols,” said the Italian.
“And we have to be able to replace him better than what we did when he was not here (serving a three-match suspension after his sending-off in October’s Merseyside derby).
“James will not be available for the next few games. Of course it is a challenge for us.
“We planned both games defensively – it is true that (Dominic) Calvert-Lewin did not have a lot of opportunity.
“But if Richarlison is not there, it will be an opportunity for the players who did not play a lot of games, and for this game they can show their qualities.”
Following the Boxing Day trip to Bramall Lane, Everton are back in action again on December 28 when Manchester City visit Goodison Park, and Ancelotti knows he will likely need to freshen things up against Pep Guardiola’s men.
He said: “I think that against Sheffield United we have a possibility for all the players to recover (from the Carabao Cup game).”
“After the game of course we have to take into consideration the fact that we are going to play again after two days so it will not be possible for them (to recover again). So I think not for the first game, but the second game we are going to rotate the players.”
Ancelotti is confident his players can overcome the disappointment of their cup quarter-final exit as they look to consolidate their place in the top four.
“I think we have to move on – of course we are disappointed, but we performed against Manchester United,” he added.
“We need to be able to recover the energy that we need to play against Sheffield United, because it will be a tough match, an important match.
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“We want to keep our position in the Premier League because it is a good position.
“Sheffield did a fantastic game against Brighton also, because they were with 10 men, they did well, so it is an important game.
“They need points, we need points, all the teams need points so as usual; it will be a tough game because every game is like this in the Premier League – you have to fight in every single game.”