Rafael Benitez has compared Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s return from injury as a “massive signing” for Everton.
The Toffees have been without last season’s leading scorer Calvert-Lewin since he sustained a quad injury in late August, after netting three goals in as many Premier League appearances to start 2021-22.
Calvert-Lewin’s absence has been a big blow for Benitez, who has also been without key players Richarlison, Yerry Mina and Abdoulaye Doucoure at varying stages.
Everton face Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday, coming off the back of a 17-day break due to fixtures against Burnley and Newcastle United having been called off due to COVID-19.
While Everton, who on Saturday confirmed the signing of left-back Vitaliy Mykolenko from Dynamo Kyiv, are still without a glut of first teamers, Benitez is delighted to have Calvert-Lewin back.
“He’s a massive signing for us in the second part of the league,” he said.
“Last year the top scorers of this team we’re not playing this year so, if we bring him back and a few weeks later Richarlison, we have more options there, we can think of the second part totally different.”
Brighton earned an impressive draw at Chelsea last time out. They have only one won game in 13 in the league, but and Graham Potter is delighted with how his team have performed.
“We’ve been together, we’ve had quality, a bit of luck,” he said. “We need to have that togetherness again at Goodison Park, it’s a tough place to go. They’re fighting for the points, we met them earlier in the season and they deservedly won so we need to do better.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Everton – Dominic Calvert-Lewin
Calvert-Lewin has scored in three of his last four Premier League appearances against Brighton, including in Everton’s 2-0 win earlier this season. Only against Newcastle (five) has he scored more goals in the competition than he has against the Seagulls (three).
Brighton and Hove Albion – Yves Bissouma
Yves Bissouma turned in a superb display at Stamford Bridge, though this will be the midfielder’s last game before he, as it stands, heads off to the Africa Cup of Nations with Mali. He scored a stunner in a 4-2 defeat at Goodison Park last season.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Since the start of October, Everton have won the joint-fewest points in the Premier League (six), winning just one of 11 matches in this time (W1 D3 L7). It is the first time the Toffees have won as few as one match across October, November and December in a top-flight league season in their history.
– Everton have won just 19 points after 17 Premier League matches this season (W5 D4 L8), 13 points fewer than they did at this stage last season (32). It’s their biggest drop in points between seasons at this stage since 2013-14 (34) to 2014-15 (21).
– Brighton have won more points thanks to goals scored in the 90th minute or later than any other Premier League side this season (five), including Danny Welbeck’s late leveller against Chelsea last time out.
– Brighton have never won away against Everton in all competitions (D2 L7), losing all four of their Premier League visits to Goodison Park.
– Everton have lost their first league game in each of the last four calendar years, last having a longer such run of defeats between 1957 and 1963 (run of seven).