Rafael Benitez surprised Burnley game going ahead in Premier League after five Covid-19 cases

Everton are due to visit Burnley at Turf Moor on Boxing Day but Rafael Benitez is relying on youngsters to enable the game to go ahead as planned; Premier League postponed two matches earlier on Thursday because of coronavirus

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Everton manager Rafael Benitez says he was surprised the Boxing Day game against Burnley was not postponed given the Covid situation he is having to deal with at the club.

Rafael Benitez says he is surprised Everton's request to postpone their game against Burnley was rebuffed by the Premier League after being left with nine senior outfield players because of a Covid-19 outbreak.

The Spaniard revealed five members of his squad had tested positive since the 1-1 draw at Chelsea on December 16, while his resources are further depleted by injuries to a further six players, including Brazil forward Richarlison.

Everton now appear to be relying on youngsters to ensure the game at Turf Moor on Boxing Day goes ahead as planned.

"With the injuries and the positives we had we were expecting that the game would be postponed," Benitez said.

"Now I have to think about if I have 11 players fit and where can I put them, so I am really surprised that we are playing this game.

"The problem is we have nine outfield players available plus three keepers and after we have to bring in five young players who are not even 21 years old. It seems that they have enough experience to play in the Premier League."

The Premier League earlier on Thursday agreed to postpone Liverpool's game against Leeds United and the match between Wolves and Watford, both scheduled for Boxing Day.

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Kaveh Solhekol explains why the Premier League has called off the Boxing Day games between Liverpool vs Leeds and Wolves vs Watford.

Benitez says he may be forced to include forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin after four months out with injury, initially because of a broken toe then a thigh problem.

"It's quite dangerous for us and maybe someone has to take responsibility," Benitez said. "It's not me, the manager, that wants to play the best players every game.

"These players after [being out for] months maybe they have to play 90 minutes so we are exposing them.

"But someone has to consider because of the circumstances of this game, we have to play players that maybe are not ready or players that have some knocks or issues, it's a difficult decision for us.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin made it three goals in three
Image: Dominic Calvert-Lewin has not played for Everton since August 28

"I'm happy to see Dominic training with the team and hopefully he can be fine. My main job now is to find 11 players in the right positions that they can compete against Burnley, it's not easy."

Everton's previous fixture, the visit of Leicester City last Sunday, was postponed due to a Covid outbreak at the visiting side.

Managers and captains are meeting with the Premier League on Thursday to discuss issues around the pandemic.

What are the Premier League rules around postponements?

The 2021/22 Premier League handbook includes Covid protocols, and states the Premier League's board will "only permit the rearrangement or postponement of a league match in exceptional circumstances".

The board make calls on a case-by-case basis, and by way of guidance the Premier League says permission for a postponement will not be granted if a club have 14 or more players from their squad list available.

Which Premier League games have been called off?

Brighton vs Tottenham - Sunday December 12, Premier League

Brentford vs Man Utd - Tuesday December 14, Premier League

Burnley vs Watford - Wednesday December 15, Premier League

Leicester vs Tottenham - Thursday December 16, Premier League

Man Utd vs Brighton - Saturday December 18, Premier League

Southampton vs Brentford - Saturday December 18, Premier League

Watford vs Crystal Palace - Saturday December 18, Premier League

West Ham vs Norwich - Saturday December 18, Premier League

Aston Villa vs Burnley - Saturday December 18, Premier League

Everton vs Leicester - Sunday December 19, Premier League

Liverpool vs Leeds - Sunday December 26, Premier League

Wolves vs Watford - Sunday December 26, Premier League

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