Everton’s Premier League match with Aston Villa being postponed will come as an unlucky break for Abdoulaye Doucoure.
According to The Guardian, the Birmingham-based outfit were hopeful of seeing the game, originally scheduled for Sunday, delayed as Dean Smith’s entire squad is currently in self-isolation after nine players and backroom staff tested positive for Covid-19.
The outbreak forced Villa to name a team consisting of Under 23 and Under 18 players for their FA Cup clash with Liverpool at the weekend, and are not due to have their senior figures available again until Sunday at the earliest.
Villa were said to be concerned about the prospect of heading straight into a top-flight clash with Everton having not trained for almost two weeks, though delaying the match will mean the claret and blue side will have played three fewer fixtures than some clubs.
The Premier League opting to delay Everton’s trip to Villa Park will be a frustrating late decision for Carlo Ancelotti and his side, who were looking to move back inside the top-four places with a win after Manchester City’s 1-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion on Wednesday night demoted them to fifth.
Everton are also enjoying a strong run of form in the top-flight, with the Blues’ 1-0 defeat at home to West Ham United on New Year’s Day their sole loss in seven league fixtures.
Doucoure, who earns £75,000-a-week according to Spotrac, will be dealt a personal blow by the postponement, too, having been set to miss the West Midlands affair through suspension after being shown a fifth yellow card of the campaign during his side’s 2-1 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers earlier this month.
Being given an additional week’s rest would have come as a lucky break for Doucoure had he not been suspended, as Ancelotti has begun to worry that the 28-year-old is being overused having playing the full 90 minutes in 10 of the Toffees’ last 11 Premier League fixtures.
“He is a key player, it was a fantastic signing in the summer,” said Ancelotti. “He is a fantastic guy and fantastic professional. I think he deserves to rest.”
The Villa fixture being postponed will instead see Doucoure sit out Everton’s home game with Leicester City on January 27, in a crunch fixture for the Toffees as they are currently competing with the Foxes for a Champions League spot.
Brendan Rodgers’ King Power Stadium natives currently sit above Ancelotti’s side on goal difference alone, having scored just three times more than Everton after the opening 17 games.
Ancelotti will likely have preferred to see Doucoure miss the Villa game with Smith’s men not match sharp and being without a league win since Boxing Day, while Leicester are unbeaten in four games and have lost just once on the road all season.
Doucoure has also been an instrumental figure on the pitch for Ancelotti, with the midfielder offering the third-most passes (862) by any Everton player in Premier League fixtures – only defenders Michael Keane (1064) and Yerry Mina (960) see more of the ball, per WhoScored.
The former Watford ace has also offered the fourth-most key passes (12) and fifth-most shots (13), showing the offensive threat Ancelotti will now lack against a Leicester side who give up the fourth-least efforts on goal when away from home with 10.4 allowed a game.
AND in other news, Everton must refrain from making a knee-jerk decision to sign a £9m-rated target…