Rafael Benitez is happy with the start Everton have made to the Premier League season as the Toffees continue to battle with a damaging list of injuries.
Abdoulaye Doucoure, a key player for Benitez so far this term, became the latest player to suffer an injury after he sustained a stress fracture to his foot in last week’s defeat to West Ham.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin is expected to be out for another five weeks, while Andre Gomes, Fabian Delph and Richarlison have only just returned to training ahead of Saturday’s clash with Watford, with Everton sitting eighth, albeit only a point off the top four.
“We have some issues but we are bringing little by little back some players,” Benitez said. “Dominic has an injury, a problem we have to sort out. How long he will be out, we have to see. It depends on how he reacts to the treatment but we will not see him for four or five weeks, it could be. We will see later on. It’s difficult to accept it and to manage, so we are trying to improve every department and find solutions.
“It has been good, if you consider the top scorers have not been available, the team is still in a good position, creating chances, I think it’s fine. I am quite confident that we will do well now, and quite confident we will do well at the end of the season, maybe in the last 10 games when it is important.”
Saturday’s match at Goodison Park marks Claudio Ranieri’s second game in charge of Watford, after a 5-0 humbling at the hands of Liverpool last time out.
“I will give them all of my experience and all of my support. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s important how you react. I want to see how they react against Everton,” Ranieri said.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Everton – Richarlison
Richarlison has been out since an injury sustained against Burnley on September 13, but Everton should be able to welcome the Brazil forward back against his former club. Both of Richarlison’s two Premier League goals in this fixture have come at Goodison Park, netting firstly for Watford back in November 2017, before scoring against the Hornets for Everton in December 2018.
Watford – Ismaila Sarr
Sarr has had 26 per cent of Watford’s total shots in the Premier League this season (20/76), the highest ratio of any player in the competition so far this term.
KEY OPTA FACTS
Everton have never lost a home game to Watford in any competition (W13 D2) – it is the most they have ever faced a side at home without defeat in their history.
Watford have won three of their last eight league games against Everton (D1 L4), more than they had in their first 18 such meetings with the Toffees (W2 D3 L13). However, they lost home and away against them in their last Premier League campaign of 2019-20.
Everton have lost eight home league games so far in 2021, with the Toffees last losing more at Goodison Park in a calendar year in 2005 (nine).
Everton have lost five of their last eight home Premier League games against newly promoted sides (W2 D1), including two of their three last season (v Leeds and Fulham). Indeed, since 2018-19, this is the most such defeats of any side, with Leicester City next on three.
Watford have had fewer shots than any other side in the Premier League this season (76), while they also have the lowest expected goals total so far this term (6.1); 41 per cent of the Hornets’ xG this season came in one game against Norwich City (2.5), which is the only game in which they’ve had an xG of more than one this term.