Everton were dealt a huge blow in their battle for Premier League survival as striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin and right back Nathan Patterson were ruled out of their final game of the season against Bournemouth on Sunday.
The Merseysiders sit two points above the relegation zone and their destiny remains in their hands as victory at Goodison Park would ensure they extend their unbroken stay in the top flight into a 70th season.
Calvert-Lewin and Patterson were withdrawn in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers due to hamstring injuries and manager Sean Dyche confirmed they will not recover in time for Sunday.
“They won’t be fit,” Dyche told reporters on Friday. “We haven’t had Dom for two-thirds of my time here. We’ve still won games and got points on the board. And Patto’s come into the side more latterly, done very well, but we lose him as well.” Everton, currently on 33 points, are facing their third last-day fight to avoid relegation from the Premier League, and will hope for a repeat of their two great escapes in 1994 and 1998.
Dyche’s side could even lose and still stay up if their relegation rivals Leicester City and Leeds United, both on 31 points, fail to win against West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur respectively.
“It is not that easy. You are still playing a team trying to win the game. Bournemouth are a good team,” Dyche said.
“All games are important but it stands to reason that being the last game and what is on it, it is a massive game. I don’t really need to emphasise that, everybody knows it... We’ve worked hard to get in this position.
“The two points doesn’t sound a lot, but it is as long as we capitalise on it. All the noise aside, it all comes down to wanting to win, that’s another consistent message. It’s not that easy but that’s our mentality to go and win.”