Everton’s first-team players lacked match fitness in Friday’s 1-0 home defeat by West Ham United but manager Carlo Ancelotti hopes they can hit peak condition ahead of their Premier League clash against Wolverhampton Wanderers in 11 days’ time.
Brazilian forward Richarlison was fit again following a concussion he sustained in the League Cup but lacked sharpness in front of the goal, as did Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Everton’s top-scorer this season.
James Rodriguez, who missed the last five games due to a calf problem, was not fit enough for a starting spot but came on as a substitute as Everton chased their fifth straight league victory following wins against Chelsea, Leicester City, Arsenal and Sheffield United.
But a late strike from West Ham midfielder Tomas Soucek denied Ancelotti’s side a point and left them in fourth spot on 29 points from 16 games, four points behind leaders Liverpool.
“The momentum was good, we had difficult games and a good run but it stopped today,” Ancelotti told reporters. “It will be important to keep our belief and confidence high.
“We have the possibility in the next few days to have players in better condition, players who were not able to train in the past weeks, and look forward with belief.
“We have players with quality who are not in their best condition, like James and Richarlison, who was coming back from a concussion. Dominic also had a problem during the game and was not 100 percent.”
Everton face Championship (second-tier) side Rotherham in the FA Cup on Jan. 9.