Pickford injury causes goalkeeping headache for Everton before cup quarter-final
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Jordan Pickford will not be involved in Everton’s FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester City on Saturday due to an abdominal muscle injury. The England goalkeeper will also miss the upcoming international break.

Pickford sustained the injury to his oblique abdominal muscle during Everton’s game with Burnley last weekend when he stretched to try and stop a strike from Johann Berg Gudmundsson. He couldn’t continue and was substituted just before half time. It is believed that it is an aggravation of the same injury that sidelined the 27-year-old for four games last month.

Carlo Ancelotti, the Everton manager, has chosen to swap his goalkeepers in the cup competitions and also rotated them in the Premier League too - a policy which he first adopted when he was managing Real Madrid.

Robin Olsen, Pickford’s understudy, would have been expected to start the FA Cup match against Pep Guardiola’s side at Goodison Park this weekend. However, Olsen, who is on a season-long loan from Roma but expected to sign a permanent contract, has also been absent for the past two-and-a-half weeks due to a knock.

The Swede, whose family home in Altrincham, Cheshire was subject to an armed burglary last week, is touch and go for the weekend with Ancelotti expected to give an update on his availability on Friday ahead of the game.

 

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The prospect of being without two senior goalkeepers for a key cup match is a worry for Everton, who are without a trophy since 1995. Should Olsen remain unavailable then an opportunity arises for 21-year-old Joao Virginia, who came on for Pickford against Burnley.

It would be the biggest game in the Portuguese goalkeeper’s short career thus far having only started for the club once in a League Cup triumph against Salford City in September.

Southgate without his No.1

Pickford’s injury is also a blow for Gareth Southgate, who will now be without his No.1 ‘keeper for World Cup qualifying games against San Marino, Albania and Poland starting on Thursday week. This international break is the last chance for Southgate to assess his charges first hand before he names his squad for this summer’s European Championship.

Given the debate surrounding the England No.1 shirt, Southgate will now miss out on a crucial opportunity to appraise his ‘keepers prior to the summer tournament.

 

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Nick Pope stands to benefit from Pickford’s absence and the Burnley goalkeeper, who has already made three appearances for the national team, will likely start at least two of England’s three fixtures over the next two weeks. Pope is considered the main challenger for the starting role this summer and will be determined to stake his claim.

Dean Henderson is the other goalkeeper that has been a regular in the England first team squad for the past 18 months but lack of game time since rejoining Manchester United last summer has weakened his case in the fight for the England shirt.

Southgate is considering a first senior call-up for West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper Sam Johnstone. The England manager is thought to be a keen admirer of the 27-year-old, who has represented his country at youth level and impressed with his club in the Premier League this season.

Johnstone was a regular part of Southgate's U21s squad, but was understudy to Jack Butland and never made his U21s debut. He has not played international football since 2013.

Southgate names his squad on Thursday.

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