A pleasing sight may greet Everton supporters when they travel to west London to face Brentford on Sunday afternoon, Rafael Benitez is hopeful that Abdoulaye Doucoure will be fit enough to return to action and help ease some of the team’s selection problems.
Influential midfielder Doucoure has missed four matches with a broken metatarsal but returned to training this week and could be immediately back in the starting XI such are the current strains on Everton’s squad.
“He has been training today so it is one player who maybe could be available. I think Doucoure has a chance,” Benitez said. “Because it is a metatarsal injury if he is fine, he is fine. It is not like a muscle problem where we have to be careful.
“We have to be sure close to the game everything has healed and the player is confident. If it is like that it is always a risk when you come back from injury but not a massive risk.”
Everton have missed Doucoure’s presence and diligence in midfield. Benitez’s side are without a victory since September 25, when they defeated Norwich City, and have lost four of their last six games. The injury pile-up came at the wrong time for Benitez as the early days of his tenure had appeared positive only for any early momentum to be lost dramatically.
"We are doing much better with injuries now, compared to the past,” Benitez added. “[Fabian] Delph is available and training everyday. [Jean-Philippe] Gbamin was injured for two years, but is now available and training everyday.”
Better news also came in relation to Demarai Gray’s condition after the attacker was forced off with a groin injury against Manchester City last week. “He was doing a very light training session today so we will see if he can be available,” the Everton manager said. “Maybe we don’t have too much time but it [the injury] was less than we were expecting.”
Absentees still numerous for Brentford trip
"I think we have been quite close in some of these games,” Benitez insisted. "We want to win and we are really disappointed. The game against Tottenham at home was a reaction. If you have a bad run with top sides you can be for some time without winning.”
Everton will also be without Richarlison for the trip to Brentford after the Brazilian received his fifth yellow card of the season and will serve a one-game suspension. His absence is a further kick in the teeth for the manager.
"He knows it is too early to get five yellow cards,” he said. “He has to realise he cannot react sometimes, he has to stay more calm. Sometimes his frustration and reaction is out of control. He needs to be more aware of that. We have two experienced players available - [Cenk] Tosun and [Salomon] Rondon - and a young player who was injured but is coming back, Simms.”
Brentford’s form is just as worrying as Everton’s currently. Thomas Frank’s newly-promoted team have lost four of the last five Premier League games after a promising start to life in the division and will hope to regain some momentum on Sunday.
"I think [Brentford] are doing really well,” Benitez said. “Now it's more difficult, little by little everybody knows you better. But in terms of these kind of teams, they have an advantage because they've been working the same way for a while.”
"For us, it's important to win any game. We are close in the table, but think about just winning one game we could be really close to the top six. That's the situation in the table right now, one game can change everything.”