If Tuesday’s defeat to fellow relegation strugglers Newcastle United damaged any early confidence that Everton had picked up under Frank Lampard, then further destruction was made to their playing resources in the form of a quadriceps injury for Yerry Mina. The Colombian has been ruled out for 8-10 weeks in what represents a further setback for the new manager.
As Lampard tries to drag Everton away from a relegation fight, he has now lost centre backs in his first two games in charge. Mina’s third thigh problem of an injury-plagued campaign compounded the hamstring issue that Ben Godfrey picked up against Brentford in the FA Cup, which will sideline the English defender until March.
Everton are now down to just two senior central defenders in Michael Keane and Mason Holgate which poses a problem as Lampard has preferred a 3-4-3 formation. The 19-year-old Jarrad Branthwaite, who has made just eight appearances, is an option while full back Seamus Coleman could also deputise in a more central role.
“Yerry Mina is an unfortunate injury which will be between eight to 10 weeks,” said Lampard prior to another crucial clash near the foot of the table at home to Leeds United on Saturday. “It’s a strong injury around his quad. Disappointing for us all. In the week I’ve been here I’ve realised he is a big leader in the group, a top player, and a big miss.
“We were aware straight away and our worst fears were confirmed a day or so later in terms of being out for a while. Yerry is a big personality here. He’s a positive man who we will miss but, at the same time, we have to be positive around him and move on in the short term until he is back.”
Everton are without seven first-team players
What’s more, Demarai Gray will also miss Saturday’s game with a hip problem sustained at Newcastle, as will left-back Vitalii Mykolenko, while midfielders Abdoulaye Doucoure, Fabian Delph and Tom Davies are longer-term absentees.
Everton currently sit just two points above the bottom three and although they do have at least one match in hand on most of their relegation rivals, the Merseyside club have just one league win since September and collected six points from a possible 45.
Losing to Newcastle was a blow to the early stages of Lampard’s tenure, but he’s confident his squad have the character required to bounce back starting with the Leeds game.
“I think a lot is made out of ‘Have you been in a relegation battle before?’” the Everton manager added. “Maybe we’ll have to adjust around it at different times, but I have confidence in the squad anyway and we just have to dig in.
“There are areas we will have to dig in in this short term particularly until we can get these players back. I believe in the squad and sometimes digging in is the only way, particularly in our league position, so I won’t complain too much.
“We want to win the game. I've come here now with a really good performance in the cup, one we weren't so happy with in the week. I certainly don't want to put everything on this game. They're a relatively unique team in their style. We have to understand that but also believe in their own strengths. The lads will be prepared for what Leeds can bring.”