‘Focused’ goalie still the first pick

‘Focused’ goalie still the first pick

LONDON • Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti said goalkeeper Jordan Pickford is unaffected by the intense criticism he has faced following a tackle on Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk and that he will start today’s English Premier League clash at Southampton.

Champions Liverpool confirmed Dutchman van Dijk will undergo surgery on damaged knee ligaments, after the challenge in last weekend’s Merseyside derby which ended in a 2-2 draw.

Pickford has since been blasted by pundits and Merseyside Police are investigating threats to him online, but Ancelotti said the England international had not let the incident hamper his preparations.

“He’s going to play. I don’t take into consideration to take him out,” the Italian said on Friday.

“I saw him in training this week and he was focused, he put in a good performance and was concentrated. This is what I want to see from a player.

“If he has a problem, I want him to come to me to talk but he didn’t come to me, so I think he’s absolutely OK.”

Pickford made a number of errors last season, prompting Ancelotti to sign Sweden international Robin Olsen on loan from Roma on transfer deadline day. But the 61-year-old was measured in his assessment of Pickford’s form early in the current campaign.

“Sometimes he did well, sometimes he could do better. That’s it,” Ancelotti added. “I think when we manage a performance, I’m used to looking at the right things, not only the wrong. I’m used to being cold and try to see what he did good and what he did wrong.”

The Toffees boss is also hopeful playmaker James Rodriguez will be fit in time for today, a day after saying he expected the Colombia international to miss the match.

Rodriguez suffered an injury during a challenge from van Dijk early in the derby, although he stayed on for the full 90 minutes.

Ancelotti had earlier suggested Rodriguez would be unable to face the Saints, but on Friday confirmed he had resumed partial training.

“He is not definitely out,” he said.

“Fortunately his recovery was good and he trained today. We are confident he can maybe play.”

Ancelotti said centre-back Ben Godfrey, who made his Everton debut against Liverpool, will be deployed at right-back against the Saints, with Jonjoe Kenny yet to recover from an ankle injury.

League leaders Everton are unbeaten this season, having recorded four wins and a draw.

Southampton started the season with two defeats but have since turned things around, with last weekend’s 3-3 draw against Chelsea underlining their resilience after they came from behind twice to earn a point.

“When you look at how they (Everton) play, it’s no coincidence they’re unbeaten. They’ve done a fantastic job,” Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuttl said. “But we played last week against a team that had a lot of quality on the pitch and showed we’re not scared.

“The Premier League is a long run and not a 100m sprint. We’ve become more competitive in the last three games and this is the way we want to go.”

Hasenhuttl confirmed that Stuart Armstrong was back after testing positive for Covid-19 on international duty with Scotland. His return was welcome news, with Moussa Djenepo injured and loanee Theo Walcott ineligible to face his parent club.

REUTERS

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