Carlo Ancelotti’s public façade will be masking his concerns after confirming that Everton will be without goalkeepers Jordan Pickford and Robin Olsen against Manchester City.
The Toffees host Pep Guardiola’s runaway Premier League leaders at Goodison Park on Saturday looking to secure a place in the semi-finals of the FA Cup for the first time since 2016.
Everton were beaten 2-1 by Manchester United at the penultimate stage that year and will now have to rely on academy shot-stopper Joao Virginia protecting the backline in hopes of booking a trip to Wembley for next month.
Virginia entered the action as a late first half substitute as Everton lost 2-1 to Burnley last weekend to make his Premier League debut, when Pickford was unable to continue after aggravating a prior abdominal injury.
Olsen was not included in the matchday squad for the Clarets game as he continues to overcome an abdominal injury, which the AS Roma loanee had hoped to overcome in time to face Manchester City on Saturday.
However, Ancelotti has stated that neither the Swede nor Pickford will be able to guard the net against Guardiola’s side, while also being without James Rodriguez (calf), Abdoulaye Doucoure (foot) and Fabian Delph (tendon).
“The two goalkeepers are out, Robin Olsen and Jordan Pickford,” Ancelotti said on Friday.
“Jean-Philippe Gbamin is out but we have good news about him. He will start training with the team next week.
“James is out but he will start to train with the team next week, also. Doucoure and Delph will be unavailable.”
Ancelotti added that he is not concerned by his goalkeeper situation going into the weekend as, while Virginia is relatively unproven, he has many positives.
“I’m not worried because Joao is young, without experience, but he has a lot of quality. I am not worried for the absence of the two goalkeepers,” the Everton boss noted, via quotes shared by the Liverpool Echo’s Phil Kirkbride.
However, Ancelotti’s public façade will surely be masking private concerns, as Virginia is set for a baptism of fire against Guardiola’s Manchester City like he has never faced before.
Prior to making his top-flight debut against Burnley last weekend, Virginia’s only first team action for the Toffees had come in a Carabao Cup second round win over League Two side Salford City in September.
He may have kept a clean sheet as Everton secured a 3-0 win, yet left much to the imagination during an intended season-long loan deal with Reading last term which was called short in January after Virginia struggled to establish himself.
The 21-year-old opened the first two games of the Championship season but never stepped foot on the field for a league match with the Royals after that, and failed to make the bench beyond the eighth fixture of the season.
Former Reading boss Mark Bowen was upfront and honest in his assessment of why the loan did not work out, stating in quotes by Berkshire Live before Virginia was recalled:
“He came in as hopefully being a No. 1, but then it changed with Rafael [Cabral] coming in. His experience and ability has kept Virginia on the sidelines. There’s no point hiding from it – it hasn’t gone well for him.
“He trains hard every day, but in terms of his mental well-being and where he sees his future, he has decisions to make… I can’t speak highly enough of him as a professional but coming in at 19, it was a big ask to come in as a starter week in, week out. We’re aware it hasn’t gone well for him.”
Virginia now has to guard Everton’s net against a Manchester City side which has scored 101 goals in 45 games across all competitions this season, including 18 in their last six matches – a very tough task.
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