Lucas Digne’s return to the Everton fold has been put on hold after he informed Rafael Benítez he was unavailable for Thursday’s trip to Chelsea through illness.
The France international was dropped for Everton’s past two games but had been in line to start for the injury-hit team at Stamford Bridge. However, having trained on Tuesday, Digne declared himself unavailable 24 hours later.
“Lucas Digne is a good player, he was an important player for us and yesterday we did a training session and he was in the 11 starters,” the Everton manager said. “Today, he said he is ill and not available for tomorrow.”
Benítez has previously declined to comment on claims he has fallen out with Everton’s only senior left-back and was similarly reticent when asked whether he believed Digne was ill.
“It is not that I believe or not,” he said. “I have been in football for so many years and I have so many experiences similar to this one and it is a question of making a decision. I have to be sure that the players that will be there tomorrow want to be there and they want to fight for the club.”
Benítez is under mounting pressure after a dreadful run of seven defeats in 10 games and, as well as the long-term injury absentee Dominic Calvert-Lewin, he will be without Richarlison for several weeks with a calf problem. Andros Townsend is sidelined after sustaining a broken bone in a foot during Sunday’s loss at Crystal Palace and Séamus Coleman is doubtful with a soft-tissue injury.
“I was talking with Mr [Farhad] Moshiri this morning,” said Benítez of Everton’s major shareholder. “I also have meetings with the chairman and the chief exec and they are supporting me. They have experienced changing managers, they have experienced trying to adapt things, and it was not working.
“Which is the feeling of the last years for any Everton fan – success or frustration? You know the answer. They know the problems are not ones we can fix in just five months.”