Sheffield United have two reasons to hope Everton exercise caution when deciding James Rodriguez's return date
James Rodriguez could face Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Boxing Day after Everton, who signed the Colombian from Real Madrid earlier this year, confirmed he has entered the final phase of his recovery from a calf injury.
Carlo Ancelotti hoped Rodriguez, capped 80 times by his country, would be declared available for selection during last night’s Carabao Cup tie against Manchester United.
But following a series of consultations with medics at Goodison Park, Ancelotti told journalists this weekend’s visit to South Yorkshire or Monday’s clash with Manchester City are now being viewed as more realistic dates for Rodriguez’s comeback.
Although Everton have beaten Chelsea, Leicester City and Arsenal in the 29-year-old’s absence - climbing to fourth in the Premier League as a result - United would prefer it if Ancelotti did not have Rodriguez at his disposal for the trip to South Yorkshire.
Despite only costing around £12m when he moved to England three months ago, the former Bayern Munich and Monaco star, who reportedly earns around £140,000 a week, has immediately adapted to life in England - scoring three goals and claiming three assists in 11 outings.
Former United centre-forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who has been on target 16 times already this term, is still searching for his first effort in the league since Rodriguez was ruled out of action following Everton’s draw with Burnley earlier this month.
Sander Berge is the only regular member of United’s midfield with a higher pass completion average than Rodriguez, but the Nowergian is set to miss the next three months after undergoing surgery to repair his damaged hamstring. John Lundstram, who measures only a percentage point behind Rodriguez, is also set to miss the game against Everton after United elected not to appeal the red card he received during last weekend’s draw with Brighton and Hove Albion at the AMEX Stadium.
Lundstram, whose contract expires at the end of the campaign, received a three match suspension following his tackle on Joel Veltman; referee Peter Bankes upgrading the yellow card he initially issued to a red after reviewing footage of the challenge on a pitchside monitor.