Rafa BenÝtez: Press Conference before Crystal Palace



Concerns with COVID-19?

To be fair, we knew a long time ago that it would be a difficult time with COVID-19 around. We are trying to have some control of the situation. We have meetings with the players before the emergency message on what we have to do, but you never know [what could happen]. We have seen some games and clubs affected by it and we have to be sure that we are doing what we have to do.

This busy time, Christmas is always very complicated because there are so many games. The only thing we can do is just try to be sure that we socially distance, wash our hands, wear masks and tell the players what they have to do.

Difficulty dealing with this for 20 months and reverting back to emergency measures...

It’s difficult for everyone and for us as professionals we have to have more control. I can see the people in the streets and you can see it is difficult for everyone. You go home and sometimes you see friends and family with issues. It’s complicated but we have to manage it and be sure we take the correct measures in order to keep safe.

Lucas Digne situation?

I think Lucas was clear, the manager decides. He has been training today and we will decide tomorrow. It is a normal situation with a player that is training and we will see tomorrow if he is available or not.

You want Digne to be available for the game?

I think we need all the players around because that increases the competition in the team, but at the same time everybody has to be focussed and have to realise the priority is the team.

How is the squad going into Sunday?

In terms of fitness, the team are well. It’s good because you could see the other day that I believe we ran more than we have in four years so that means that the team are physically at a good level. You can always improve but we are fine [at the moment] and working so hard.

In terms of injuries, we still have Yerry [Mina]. Dominic [Calvert-Lewin] is getting closer. Every training session that he is doing with the rehabilitation coach he is getting better.
Yerry is not available.

Rondon is available, has been training and Allan has done half a training session today. Davies, maybe next week he will start with the team [again in training].

Players returning from injury impact on January plans?

Not really. We know more or less what we want. The point is always to get what you want because January is always a difficult window. We are trying to focus on the games we have now, and after that, we will keep an eye on the January transfer window. 

How easy is that now that Marcel Brands has left?

My main job is to concentrate on the games, but at the same time, the Club is trying to manage and see how the new structure (will work). They are working on that, and my job is just to concentrate on the game.

Now the dust has settled on the Arsenal win...

It was massive for everyone. We needed to win. The way we won (was fantastic) because the players gave everything until the last minute and the fans were behind the team all the way. We had two goals disallowed, and there was a great intensity about the game. It was so positive, and I think everyone has had a boost, but we have to take this momentum and mentality into the next game. 

Crystal Palace will be a challenge?

I am happy with the majority of our players in terms of commitment. We talked about (Demarai) Gray or Richarlison the other day - they were fantastic, but the team really helped them. I like to talk about the team, and in some games, the intensity has been there. Players will have good games and bad games, but Gray or Richarlison were fantastic for us the other day, and everyone can agree on that.

Thoughts on the Club’s 'strategic review'?

We have conversations all the time and that is something we are doing regularly. We talk about ideas and after the owner and the board decide which way they want to go. At the moment, I give my feedback if I am asked and just concentrate on the games.

What do you think of the director of football model?

I have been in football so many years and normally in Spain or Italy you have a director of football.
I don’t have any issue with director of football or manager or coach, so it is just to be sure we choose the right one for Everton and hopefully we can be successful with that.

Importance of Arsenal win?

When you are working so hard to win games butt not having the luck, or accuracy in the final third to win games, or you make mistakes like we did the other day and conceded against Liverpool, you are pushing and pushing and working even harder to try to get the three points in the next game.

This game was massive in every sense because everybody was working so hard and together and we won. It was another confirmation this team has the spirit and when we stick together we are stronger.

How key is Demarai Gray?

I knew about his quality and potential for a while and was following him. Sometimes, it is the right moment with the manager. I trusted him and he trusted me and is playing at a good level. He has to carry on working as hard as he is and being more consistent. If he can do that he is potential player for the England team. With his quality and ability he can be a really good player for us and the national team.

What does Digne need to do to regain place?

I don’t want to talk too much about individuals It is not fair for the group. The team was doing well with different players on the pitch so we can do it. He has to continue working hard and the team is ahead of any individual.

Godfrey performance against Arsenal?

Very good, one of the key points for us to get the three points Everyone knows how dangerous Saka is and he was controlling him well.

Take advantage of Palace form?

We needed to win but especially the way we won, everybody together with intensity and the commitment of every player. We have to keep the momentum and approach the game with the right mentality and same team spirit. Really important for us to get three points and keep the momentum.