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Everton’s preparations for their Premier League opening fixture against Southampton have been thrown into disarray after five first-team players were ruled out due to COVID-19 isolation.
New manager Rafa Benitez confirmed the development on Friday in his press conference to preview the game at Goodison Park, his first as manager before a full crowd of home supporters.
The Spaniard said that playmaker James Rodriguez, whose Everton future is uncertain anyway, is one of those isolating and unavailable for selection.
In response to a question about other players missing from last Saturday’s friendly defeat by Manchester United, he also confirmed that two of the other missing players are from the trio of Moise Kean, Andre Gomes and Jean-Philippe Gbamin.
Clarifying the current position of Rodriguez, who conceded on his Twitch channel yesterday without explaining why, that he would not be involved against Southampton, Benitez said: “I had my conversation with him at the beginning and he knows my idea.
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“But obviously now he is not available so it is not an issue for tomorrow. We will discuss with every player and their agents to try and find the best solution for us and them.”
Benitez refused to name the other four players who will definitely miss out but confirmed that Richarlison, who returned from the Olympics this week, and Dominic Calvert-Lewin will be available. Both missed the 4-0 rout at Old Trafford six days ago.