Everton have confirmed that a supporter has been arrested after Aston Villa pair Matty Cash and Lucas Digne were struck by a bottle during Saturday's Premier League clash.

The incident occurred in first-half stoppage time at Goodison Park as Villa's players celebrated Emi Buendia's headed opener, which proved to be the only goal of the game.

Villa's players celebrated the goal in the corner in front of Everton fans and several drinks bottles were thrown in their direction

One of those objects hit Cash and Digne, the latter of whom spent three and a half years with Everton before joining Villa last week after falling out with former boss Rafael Benitez.

Both players fell to the turf and held their heads, but they were able to continue.

Everton confirmed shortly after the 1-0 loss that they had identified the supporter and the matter is now being dealt with by Merseyside Police.

"Police have arrested a supporter at Goodison Park for throwing a missile onto the pitch during today's Premier League match against Aston Villa," a club statement read.

"Everton security staff and Merseyside Police identified the supporter using CCTV footage.

"Several objects were thrown towards the pitch following Aston Villa’s goal at the end of the first half, with one missile appearing to strike two opposition players.

"Investigations in conjunction with the police are ongoing, and the club will issue bans to any fans identified throwing objects."

The irony of Everton sacking Rafael Benitez on the day Carlo Ancelotti won the first trophy of his second Real Madrid stint was not lost on the Goodison Park faithful.

Ancelotti stunned Everton in June by leaving to return to Madrid. While there can be no comparison between Los Blancos when it comes to allure, it cut deep that a manager who seemed committed to a long-term project on Merseyside, had left at the first opportunity.

Not that Ancelotti's 18 months at Everton had been a roaring success. His final game was a 5-0 drubbing at Manchester City – the heaviest defeat of the Italian's managerial career, in his 1,167th match.

That result condemned Everton to a 10th-placed finish. Just City and Manchester United won more away games last term in the Premier League, yet the Toffees suffered nine home defeats, with only the three relegated sides losing more on their own turf.

But there was a feeling that Everton might have enough to push on under Ancelotti, should reinforcements arrive.

Instead, it was former Liverpool boss Benitez, who had replaced Ancelotti for an ill-fated spell at Madrid in 2015, who arrived at Goodison.

An unpopular pick among the fanbase, the Spaniard was always starting from behind the eight-ball.

As was inevitable, the experiment failed. Benitez was sacked on Sunday after defeat at lowly Norwich City with Everton lingering six points above the bottom three after a run of one win in 13 league games (the club's joint-worst Premier League run) and facing the prospect of hiring a sixth permanent manager since 2016-17.

False promises

From Benitez's first news conference, it was clear that Everton, lavish spenders in recent years, were going to be cutting their cloth in line with tight financial limitations.

"You have to work in the context of having a director of football, the board, and financial restrictions," he said after becoming only the second manager to take over Everton and Liverpool. "Talk the talk and walk the walk? I prefer to walk the walk."

Only £1.7million was spent, but Everton started the league campaign brightly. Indeed, ahead of a September 13 game with Burnley, they had scored seven times, as many as they had in their last 10 games last term.

After a 1-1 draw with United on October 2, Everton had 14 points from their seven Premier League games, the most since they had gone on to secure a fourth-place finish in the competition in 2004-05 (16). 

Was that optimism built on solid foundations, though?

Benitez's system was based on counter-attacking, with Everton happy to surrender possession. Only once before October had they had more than 50 per cent of the ball (51.71 v Burnley).

It is a trend that has continued, with Everton – who have had more possession than only three top-flight teams across the season – only seeing more of the ball than their opponents on three further occasions. In each of those games, they lost.

However, to be a counter-attacking team you must be solid, and Everton are not. They have shipped 34 goals, with only four teams having weaker defences, while 11 goals have been conceded from set-pieces, the second-worst figure in the league (Ancelotti's team only allowed 10 from dead-ball situations in 2020-21).

But since Everton's woeful run started with a 1-0 defeat to West Ham on October 17, they have taken the lead just once – in a 5-2 home defeat to Watford. It is hard to sit back and play on the break if you are constantly chasing a game.

In total, the Toffees have spent 36 per cent of games losing this season (when the ball has been in play), and only 12 per cent of the time ahead. West Ham (12) are the sole team to have gained more points from a losing position than Everton (11), so at least Benitez's men showed resolve on occasion.

From October 17, Everton rank 18th for goals (11), 16th for shots on target (46/139), 12th for touches in the opposition box (259), 15th for chances created (93) and have the third-worst defence (27 goals conceded). They have an expected goals against (xGA) of 20.6 in that timeframe, the fourth-worst in the division. Their position is in no way false.

Everton did play forward under Benitez (41.6 per cent of their passes were in an attacking direction, up from 32.9 per cent last season) but on only 86 occasions have they strung together a move of 10 passes or more, which ranks them 18th in the league, while their 490 passes/crosses is the fifth-lowest total.

The bright sparks in that run have come from moments of inspiration. Demarai Gray's stunning winner against Arsenal or Richarlison's overhead kick at Norwich. Gray has been a standout performer, scoring five league goals from an xG of only 2.7, but it felt like there has been too much onus on the winger in recent weeks.

Though injuries to Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison, Yerry Mina and Abdoulaye Doucoure must be taken into account, Benitez's mantra became "I know what the fans want", but he appeared to be talking the talk rather than walking the walk. 

Falling outs

With Everton craving stability and unity, it is odd that owner Farhad Moshiri (more on him later) turned to Benitez, who was never the right pick to unite the fanbase or stabilise the club.

He has fallen out with owners, sporting directors and high-profile players at previous clubs and, indeed, his time at Everton proved no different.

Director of football Marcel Brands, who signed a contract extension in April, was moved on when Everton fans protested over the running of the club back in December, following a 4-1 defeat to Liverpool. 

Evertonians' worst nightmare had played out, their rivals singing Benitez's name at Goodison after a humiliating defeat. It was the first time the Reds scored four goals in an away league derby since a 5-0 win in 1982, and Brands paid the price. His recruitment department followed, with director of medical services Dan Donachie having already left.

Everton offered their full backing to Benitez and five days later, claimed a vital win over Arsenal. But a cloud hung over that victory.

Since his arrival at Everton, Lucas Digne was second only to Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold for chances created by a Premier League defender (211). The France international had spoken openly of having been asked to play a more defensive role under Benitez, though behind the scenes matters appeared to boil over in a reported training-ground row.

Digne was dropped and did not return bar, for reasons known only to Benitez himself, to take a seat on the bench in a 3-2 defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion. The full-back received applause from the crowd when he warmed up, but did not come on despite Everton needing an equaliser late on in a game in which they only made two changes.

Last week, Digne was sold to Aston Villa. The sale eases the financial issues but leaves Everton without their third-most creative player (22 key passes) in the league this term. Indeed, only Andros Townsend (2.13) has crafted more opportunities for them this season than Digne (1.69) per 90 minutes.

With Digne and James Rodriguez, who left for Qatar in September, gone and Gylfi Sigurdsson not involved, Everton are without all three of their leading creators from 2020-21.

Moshiri mayhem

Benitez leaves with a 26.3 win percentage from 19 league games. Only Mike Walker performed worse in the Premier League era. His dismissal should have come sooner, it seemed pointless delaying the inevitable.

But for his faults, he is not the root cause of Everton's issues and owner Moshiri and chairman Bill Kenwright must look in the mirror.

Since Moshiri took over in 2016, Everton have recorded 1.37 points per game, ranking them 10th in the league, but a vast amount of investment has been made. So, what next?

Roberto Martinez, who was sacked in 2016, is reportedly a leading candidate. The Belgium boss won 21 Premier League games in his first season in charge at Everton, guiding them to a record points total of 72, but he won just 22 games combined across the next two years.

Lucien Favre has also been mooted. He averaged 2.08 points per game at Borussia Dortmund, a figure bettered by only Thomas Tuchel (2.09) and new boss Marco Rose (2.11), while the Swiss led the club to their third-best Bundesliga points tally in 2017-18. He could provide experience and a modern approach.

Graham Potter seems to have ruled himself out. Wayne Rooney is doing terrific work at Derby County, might he be an option?

For now though, Everton's immediate focus must be on avoiding a relegation scrap. 

Assistant Duncan Ferguson, who remained unbeaten in the league in his spell in charge prior to Ancelotti's arrival, seems a logical pick to take over on a temporary basis, with Villa visiting Goodison on Saturday, to perhaps provide some of the spark missing during Benitez's doomed tenure and buy Everton time to make the right choice.

With just 19 points from the first half of the season, their lowest tally at the halfway stage of a season since 2005-06 (17), Everton cannot afford to get this appointment wrong, too.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcus Rashford were notable absentees from Manchester United's squad for Saturday's clash with Aston Villa.

Ronaldo missed the FA Cup third-round tie between the sides on Monday due to injury and the 36-year-old was not fit enough to feature at Villa Park, despite Ralf Rangnick's hopes on Friday that he would have the striker available.

Harry Maguire and Jadon Sancho missed United's 1-0 victory over Villa, but both returned to United's bench for the Premier League clash.

However, there was no place among the substitutes for England international Rashford, who endured a difficult night at Old Trafford at the start of the week and has struggled for form all season.

The forward has netted just two Premier League goals in 11 appearances this term, starting only seven times in the top flight.

With Ronaldo and Rashford absent, and Anthony Martial not in the picture, Anthony Elanga was handed a full league debut, with Edinson Cavani leading the line.

Villa boss Steven Gerrard, meanwhile, handed a debut to new signing Lucas Digne, who arrived in a reported £25million deal from Everton in the week.

Gerrard's other new acquisition – his former Liverpool team-mate Philippe Coutinho – took a place on Villa's bench.

Lucas Digne has completed his move to Aston Villa from Everton.

Villa have secured a deal reportedly worth up to £25million for the France full-back, who moves to Villa Park on a long-term contract.

Digne becomes Villa's second signing of the January transfer window after Philippe Coutinho linked up with former Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard – now manager at Villa Park – on loan from Barcelona.

Villa confirmed Digne's arrival on their official website on Thursday and Gerrard added: "When Lucas became available we jumped at the opportunity to bring him to the club.

"To sign a player of his pedigree and quality in the January window is a great addition to our squad and his arrival excites me and everyone associated with Aston Villa."

Asked about Gerrard's influence in completing a move between Everton and Villa, Digne said: "It was the main factor. I came here for the manager.

"I had a very good meeting with him and we spoke a couple of times during this month. I feel his desire to win, to show his football as a manager – the attacking football, the possession. I feel it’s what I want and what I want to show to the fans."

Digne moved to Everton from Barcelona for a reported £18m in August 2018 and had been a fan favourite at Goodison Park.

However, the left-back has not featured for the Toffees since a 4-1 home defeat to Merseyside rivals – and Rafael Benitez's former club – Liverpool on December 1.

Digne had fallen out of favour following a rift with Benitez over tactics employed by an Everton side who have won just one of their past 12 Premier League matches.

The defender appeared to aim a parting shot at Benitez in a social media post on Wednesday, stating "sometimes it only takes one person from outside to destroy a beautiful love affair".

He had also been heavily linked with Chelsea, who are seeking a reinforcement in the position following a long-term injury to Ben Chilwell, while Newcastle United, West Ham, Inter and Napoli were also credited with an interest. 

What will Digne bring to Villa?

Having replaced Leighton Baines as first choice at Everton, Digne went on to be a creative fulcrum under Marco Silva and Carlo Ancelotti, both from set-pieces and open play.

Since making his Everton debut on August 11, 2018, Digne has created 211 chances in the Premier League, ranking him behind only Liverpool star Trent Alexander-Arnold (267) among defenders.

Digne's 34 big chances created is the third most, behind Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson, with his 18 league assists also only bettered by the Liverpool duo.

Alexander-Arnold (1,408) is also the only defender to have played more passes/crosses into the area than Digne (902), highlighting just how much of a persistent threat the Frenchman can be.

But on the defensive side of things, Digne has proven himself slightly more reliable in the tackle than Alexander-Arnold and Robertson, with the former Paris Saint-Germain full-back boasting a better success rate (63.2 per cent) than both in such situations.

That also translates to his duels involvement, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Charlie Taylor the only full-backs (minimum 50 games played) to have a better duel success rate than Digne's 59.4 (712/1,199) since the Everton man made his Premier League debut.

Matt Targett will likely lose his place to Digne, who even in a more restricted attacking role has still created 1.7 chances per 90 minutes this season, compared to Targett's 1.3.

Digne's 1.5 tackles is also an improvement on Targett's 1.1, though he has averaged fewer interceptions (1.1) per 90 minutes than either Targett or Villa right-back Matthew Cash.

Lucas Digne appeared to aim a parting shot at Everton boss Rafael Benitez ahead of his move to Aston Villa, stating "sometimes it only takes one person from outside to destroy a beautiful love affair".

Digne is on his way out of the Toffees to join Premier League rivals Villa in a deal reportedly worth up to £25million.

The France left-back has fallen out of favour since Benitez arrived at Goodison Park and the Everton manager last week accused Digne of putting his own interests ahead of the team.

Benitez said: "I have had a couple of conversations with him, he told me what he thought. What do you expect a manager to do when a player tells a manager he doesn’t want to be here?

"I think he was very clear. I want to ask a question to any fan or former player, what [former Everton player] Peter Reid will say if a player doesn't want to be here? He told me what he thought, so what do you expect the manager to do?

"I have no explanation. We are professionals, we are paid big money to do our job. In modern football, maybe the priorities have changed and people think about themselves ahead of the team."

Digne took to Instagram on Wednesday to express his gratitude to Everton fans and made it clear he could no longer work with former Liverpool manager Benitez.

He posted: "Only one year ago I signed a new contract with the ambition of staying in this club for a long time, giving everything for my club, for the development and project, that I believed in – and for the passionate fans.

"My dream was helping the club back to where it belongs. Wearing the captain's armband in some matches always made me proud.

"Everything must come to an end. I just did not expect it to end this way.

"What has happened and some things that was said about me in the last month has made me very sad. But I will not enter a war of words with anyone.

"The club doesn't deserve that, the fans don't deserve that – and to be honest, I don't feel that I deserve that.

"There are so many good and decent people in and around Everton who want the best for this club and not only for themself – and to them I can only say from my heart: I wish you the best!

"Thank you, to all the wonderful, proud and passionate true Evertonians. It has been an honour and a true pleasure to play for you, the fans, the people – because a club does not belong to a player or a manager, but to the fans. I will always carry you with me in my heart wherever I go.

"Sometimes it only takes one person from outside to destroy a beautiful love affair."

Romelu Lukaku cast his Chelsea future in doubt with a recent interview – and the unsettled striker may now be offered a route out of Stamford Bridge by Paris Saint-Germain.

The 28-year-old revealed his regret at leaving Inter for Chelsea and questioned boss Thomas Tuchel's tactics, leading to him being dropped for the 2-2 draw with Liverpool.

Lukaku has returned for the Blues' two matches since, but doubts remain over whether he will still be a Chelsea player come the start of next season.

TOP STORY – LUKAKU LINED UP AS MBAPPE REPLACEMENT?

PSG look certain to lose Kylian Mbappe at the end of the campaign as the Real Madrid target fast approaches the end of his contract at the Parc des Princes.

The Ligue 1 giants are on the lookout for possible replacements and, according to El Nacional, Lukaku is one of those being considered by the club's wealthy backers.

The report suggests PSG are willing to pay €90million (£75.1m) to persuade Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to part ways with the club's all-time record signing.

Lukaku, who apologised for giving the explosive interview in December, has scored eight goals in 20 appearances since returning to west London five months ago.

ROUND-UP

– Tottenham have decided to sell Steven Bergwijn this month amid interest from several clubs, according to Fabrizio Romano. Ajax are said to be among the sides to have already made an offer for the Netherlands international.

– Anthony Martial wants to leave Manchester United and has been touted as a possible target for Barcelona. But Spanish outlet Sport claims that, while Barca are eager to strengthen in the final third, Martial is not on their radar in this window.

– Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger is wanted by a number of Europe's heavyweight clubs. According to Foot Mercato, PSG are prepared to pay more than the likes of Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, but the latter remains the Germany international's preferred choice.

– A rumoured target for Chelsea and Bayern, Sergino Dest's Barcelona future may become clearer in the coming days. El Nacional claims the defender's representatives are set to hold talks with the Catalan giants.

– After being jeered off the pitch by his own supporters in Tottenham's 3-1 FA Cup win over Morecambe on Sunday, The Athletic reports that club-record signing Tanguy Ndombele is hopeful of ending his tumultuous spell in north London this month.

– The Athletic also reports Aston Villa are now the favourites to sign Everton full-back Lucas Digne, despite previous interest from Chelsea. Newcastle United have also been linked, but Digne is apparently not considering a move to the relegation-threatened side.

Rafael Benitez has confirmed Lucas Digne wants to leave Everton.

Left-back Digne, who signed from Barcelona for a reported £18million in August 2018, has not featured for the Toffees since a 4-1 home defeat to Merseyside rivals – and Benitez's former club – Liverpool on December 1.

That loss was one of eight for Everton from their last 12 Premier League games. They have won just one of their fixtures in that run, beating Arsenal 2-1 thanks to a late Demarai Gray stunner.

Everton, who were limited in the off-season transfer window partly due to the Premier League's profit and sustainability rules, have been active already this month, signing right-back Nathan Patterson from Rangers for a fee believed to be £11m plus add-ons, and bringing in left-back Vitaliy Mykolenko from Dynamo Kiev, seemingly to replace Digne.

Chelsea, who need cover at left wing-back following news of Ben Chilwell's season-long injury lay-off, are rumoured to be interested, while West Ham and Newcastle United have also been linked.

And, in a somewhat unexpected outburst during Friday's news conference to preview Everton's trip to Hull City in the FA Cup, Benitez revealed Digne, who signed a new long-term contract in 2021, wished to leave.

Benitez also addressed an Everton legend from the club's 1980s heyday in the form of Peter Reid, who on Sunday, after a 3-2 defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion, tweeted: "Major problems at Goodison Park, huge concerns about the direction of the football club."

The Spanish coach told reporters: "I want to ask a question to every fan, or former players, what Peter Reid will do or say if a player doesn't want to be there. That's it, simple.

"I had a couple of conversations with [Digne], he told me what he thought. What do you expect a manager to do? Fans, former players, what will Peter Reid say if a player goes to the manager that he doesn't want to be here?

"We need players that want to be here. Talking about individual stats when the team finished 10th [last season], it means nothing for me. I want a winning mentality, ambition, it will take some time."

Asked why he included Digne on the bench for Sunday's loss to Brighton, having dropped him altogether for previous matches, Benitez said: "I try to do what is best for the club, sometimes you pay for that."

Benitez also confirmed there had been no bids for Digne.

"I would like to sign [Erling] Haaland and [Kylian] Mbappe, but you'd need commitment. We don't have commitment yet," he said.

"There is interest but nothing concrete. What I cannot do is give priority to those who are not interested. Do we want to grow and improve or just manage egos?"

Big boots to fill?

With Digne's replacement already through the door, the focus for Everton will be on recouping a suitable fee for such an experienced player in arguably his prime years.

Digne has undoubtedly been a success at Everton after having a tricky spell at Barca, where he struggled for regular minutes behind Jordi Alba in the pecking order.

Having replaced fan-favourite Leighton Baines as first choice at Everton, Digne went on to be a creative fulcrum under Marco Silva and Carlo Ancelotti, both from set-pieces and open play.

Since making his Everton debut on August 11, 2018, Digne has created 211 chances in the Premier League, ranking him behind only Liverpool star Trent Alexander-Arnold (267) among defenders.

Digne's 34 big chances created is the third most, behind Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson, with his 18 league assists also only bettered by the Liverpool duo.

Alexander-Arnold (1,408) is also the only defender to have played more passes/crosses into the area than Digne (902), highlighting just how much of a persistent threat the Frenchman can be.

But on the defensive side of things, Digne has proven himself slightly more reliable in the tackle than Alexander-Arnold and Robertson, with the former Paris Saint-Germain full-back boasting a better success rate (63.2 per cent) than both in such situations.

That desire also translates to his duels involvement, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Charlie Taylor the only full-backs (minimum 50 games played) to have a better duel success rate than Digne's 59.4 (712/1,199) since the Everton man made his Premier League debut.

Everton have completed the signing of Dynamo Kiev left-back Vitaliy Mykolenko.

The Ukraine international has penned a four-year deal at Goodison Park and becomes the Toffees' first signing of the January transfer window.

Mykolenko has represented his country on 21 occasions and was part of the squad that reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2020.

Speaking to Everton's official website, Mykolenko said: "Moving to Everton is a big and important step in my life.

"I have always dreamed of playing in the Premier League. English football is where the game was born and I think that it will suit my game very well.

"I am 22 but I don't feel like a youngster. I have experience of playing at European level and hope I will continue to improve as a player.

"I am excited about the opportunity of playing in front of our supporters at Everton. I have seen the last few games at Goodison Park and they were unbelievable. 

"They are incredible fans to whom I feel great responsibility."

The deal comes amid rumours that Lucas Digne is headed to Chelsea, with reports suggesting the Blues are chasing a loan deal for the France international.

Digne has been a mainstay of Everton's line-up since arriving from Roma in August 2018 but has fallen out of favour under Rafael Benitez.

Chelsea are on the lookout for reinforcements after losing Ben Chilwell to a serious knee injury for the rest of the season, with Marcos Alonso their only other recognised option in the position.

Rafael Benitez has suggested the Premier League need to "take responsibility" after they rejected Everton's request for Sunday's game with Burnley to be postponed.

Everton visit the Clarets at Turf Moor on Boxing Day but Benitez revealed on Thursday that he only has nine senior outfielders to pick from.

The Toffees have three goalkeepers fit and a selection of players from the academy, though Benitez warned that situation may change over the coming days.

Six Premier League games, including Everton's meeting with Leicester City, were called off last weekend amid COVID-19 outbreaks within several squads.

On Thursday, the Premier League confirmed Leeds United's trip to Liverpool and Watford's game at Wolves, set to be played on Sunday too, had also been postponed.

Premier League clubs met on Monday, deciding to carry on without a "circuit-breaker" shutdown, though each game would be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Benitez, however, could not hide his frustration that Everton were being told the Burnley encounter must go ahead.

He told a news conference: "I'm really surprised that the game is going on because of all the cases we have and the injuries.

"We have followed all of the rules, we do the lateral flows, PCRs, have the masks, three dressing rooms to spread the players. But we cannot control when we have to play matches and a player is positive but does not have any symptoms and can pass it to the others.

"That is what happened the other day against Chelsea. We had to play some young players and after the game we found that we had five positives. With the injuries and the positives we had, we thought that the game would be postponed.

"The rules are 13 players plus one goalkeeper. We have nine outfield players available plus three goalkeepers and after that we have five young players, but they say they have enough experience to play in the Premier League."

Benitez confirmed that Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who has been out injured since August, is in contention, but is concerned the striker will have to be rushed into playing a full match.

He continued: "The reality is some of these players, like Dominic, have been out for months, so we have players who have knocks, we have to push them, play players who are not fit.

"Who will take responsibility if something happens? We are exposing them. My main job now is to find 11 players and play in the right positions to be competitive.

"I think they are considering just the numbers. But who is taking responsibility if something is wrong with injured players? We have six injuries, five players with COVID."

Lucas Digne has missed Everton's last three games after a reported falling out with Benitez, but the left-back is, as it stood on Thursday, available.

"At the moment [Digne] is available, yes. Lucas is our player," said Benitez, with Everton reported to have secured the signing of Ukraine left-back Vitaliy Mykolenko for January.

"My main concern is to concentrate on the players I have, Lucas is one of these players. Lucas has been a key player for us, he's an important player, working really hard in every training session and during the games."

France will be without Lucas Digne for the Nations League final after the defender withdrew from Les Bleus' squad due to a hamstring injury.

Digne was an unused substitute on Thursday as France fought back from 2-0 down at half-time to beat Belgium 3-2 in Turin.

After goals from Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe levelled matters, full-back Theo Hernandez completed the turnaround with a superb 90th-minute winner.

The stunning comeback from Didier Deschamps' side booked a final showdown with Spain on Sunday, though Digne will now miss that match.

Everton issued a statement revealing the 28-year-old is returning to Merseyside to have a minor hamstring issue assessed by the club's medical team.

Rafael Benitez will hope to have the player available when Everton return to domestic action on October 17, hosting West Ham at Goodison Park.

Digne has started all seven Premier League games so far in the 2021-22 campaign, which is his fourth at the club since arriving from Barcelona in July 2018.

Didier Deschamps has concerns over the fitness of defensive duo Lucas Digne and Lucas Hernandez as France get ready to play in a "new competition" at Euro 2020.

France finished top of Group F thanks to a 2-2 draw against fellow qualifiers Portugal on Wednesday, with second-placed Germany also making it through to the last 16.

Reigning world champions France saw Karim Benzema score twice – his first goals at international level since October 8, 2015 – but had to finish the game in Budapest with midfielder Adrien Rabiot playing at left-back.

Deschamps substituted Hernandez at half-time due to what he described as a minor knee issue, though the Bayern Munich player had also received a yellow card in the 36th minute.

Replacement Digne did not last long and, as the France head coach revealed in his post-match news conference, the Everton player could now be ruled out for the remainder of the tournament.

Asked to provide an update on both players, Deschamps told the media: "The most worrying is Lucas Digne.

"He has a muscle injury, he felt a pull behind his thigh. It will be very complicated [for the rest of Euro 2020].

"Lucas Hernandez also had a small problem, his knee reacted a bit. I didn't want to take any risks. Unfortunately in the same game, I lost both. We'll see for Hernandez in the next few days."

 

Deschamps utilised Jules Kounde at right-back in a 4-2-3-1 system, though made clear it is by no means certain he will stick with the formation for their next game, which sees France take on Switzerland in the round of 16.

"It seemed to me to be better disposed on an individual and collective level, but it will not always be that for the future," he said on his tactical approach. "It can be, but it is not a firm and definitive position today."

France finished with five points from their three games. They are unbeaten in each of their last 12 group-stage outings at major international tournaments, winning seven and drawing five.

"Other teams were able to give a better impression than ours," Deschamps said after engineering a path out of a tough group.

"But a new competition will begin. Winning against Germany was very important for us. Having taken a point in a particular context against Hungary, it gave us the qualification before this match.

"As I told the players, there was no math to do except at the end. We did not do everything well, but the state of mind was there, we can still improve things. I am very satisfied to be there once again."

Time is running out to secure precious fantasy football points as the Premier League season nears an end.

Manchester City have the title in the bag, but it may still be all to play for in fantasy leagues heading into the penultimate weekend of the campaign.

With some teams still having three games to play in a hectic schedule, it will be vital to make the right picks and ensure points could potentially mean prizes.

Here are a few tips to help you out, powered by Opta, as always...

 

EDERSON

City travel to Newcastle United on Friday for their first match since being crowned champions.

They have won 11 consecutive Premier League away matches and a 12th victory at St. James' Park would see them break the all-time record in the top four tiers of English football.

City have kept 16 clean sheets on their travels in all competitions this season and are one away from equalling the record by a top-flight team in a season.

Newcastle have managed just 41 shots in seven Premier League games against Pep Guardiola's side, so another clean sheet could be on the cards for Ederson, who has more than any other goalkeeper in the division this season (18).

 

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD

Liverpool full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold was outstanding in the 4-2 victory at Manchester United on Thursday.

With England boss Gareth Southgate watching on, Alexander-Arnold caught the eye with an influential display as Jurgen Klopp's side claimed three precious points in the battle for a Champions League spot.

The Reds travel to relegated West Brom on Sunday knowing a win would leave them just a point behind fourth-placed Chelsea with two games to play.

Since he was omitted from the last England squad in March, Alexander-Arnold has created more chances than any other top-flight player with 21, making him a necessity for your XI.

 

LUCAS DIGNE

Everton full-back Lucas Digne has enjoyed another impressive season for Carlo Ancelotti's side.

The Toffees entertain bottom club Sheffield United at Goodison Park on Sunday as they hunt a place in Europe next season.

France international Digne can make an impact at both ends of the pitch, with his seven assists the joint-highest by a defender in the Premier League this season, along with Aaron Cresswell of West Ham.

Everton have kept four clean sheets in their previous six matches with Digne in the side too, so will be aiming to blunt the Blades on Merseyside.

 

MATHEUS PEREIRA

Brazilian forward Matheus Pereira has been a shining light in a poor season for West Brom.

The Baggies were unable to avoid an immediate return to the Championship, a defeat to Arsenal last weekend consigning Sam Allardyce to a first relegation from the Premier League.

Albion will be desperate to keep hold of Pereira, who has scored five goals in six matches ahead of the encounter with Liverpool.

He has been directly involved in 15 goals this season, with only Peter Odemwingie (22 in 2010-11) and Romelu Lukaku (21 in 2012-13) managing more involvements for the Baggies in a Premier League campaign.

 

SON HEUNG-MIN

Tottenham face Wolves at home on Sunday smarting from a 3-1 defeat at Leeds United last time out.

Son Heung-min scored Spurs' only goal at Elland Road, where the London club's slim hopes of securing a Champions League spot were all-but ended.

The South Korea forward has been directly involved in four goals in three games under caretaker boss Ryan Mason, scoring three and setting one up.

Son has found the back of the net in three consecutive Premier League games and will be a major threat to Wolves. He had managed just one goal in his previous seven outings in the competition during the final stages of Jose Mourinho's reign.

 

SERGIO AGUERO

City's all-time leading goalscorer Sergio Aguero issued an apology after his embarrassing Panenka penalty gave Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy the simplest of saves last weekend.

Aguero will be determined to make amends as he nears the end of his time with City and could take his frustration out on Newcastle.

The Argentina striker has scored 15 goals in 14 Premier League games against the Magpies, averaging one every 61 minutes, and it would be no surprise to see him add to that tally.

 

MICHAIL ANTONIO

West Ham head south to face Brighton and Hove Albion on the back of a 1-0 home defeat to Everton that left their chances of qualifying for the Champions League hanging by a thread.

They will need to respond on the south coast against a Brighton side who are safe now.

Antonio has been directly involved in 14 goals in his past 13 away Premier League starts, netting 11 times and providing three assists.

He can trouble the Seagulls and improve those numbers. Indeed, the forward has scored 24 times for the Hammers on the road in the competition, five more than any other player for the club.

Manchester City will be looking to stretch their record winning run to 20 matches when they welcome fellow in-form side West Ham to the Etihad Stadium in the Premier League this weekend.

Pep Guardiola's men are 10 points clear at the summit and two of their players feature among our Opta-fuelled fantasy picks, along with a couple of Everton men on the back of last week's long-awaited derby win at Liverpool.

Manchester United, Tottenham and Leicester City players are also selected ahead of games against Chelsea, Burnley and Arsenal respectively.

 

EDERSON

There are many factors behind the leaders' winning run - not least an incredible defensive record, with goalkeeper Ederson more than playing his part.

The Brazil international has kept 15 clean sheets from 24 Premier League games this term, averaging one every 1.6 matches.

Only two keepers to have played at least 10 times have averaged fewer games per clean sheet across an entire season - Chelsea's Petr Cech (24 in 35 apps in 2004-05) and former Manchester United stopper Edwin van der Sar (21 in 33 apps in 2008-09).

JOAO CANCELO

Simply keeping out the opposition is not enough in the life of a modern day full-back, best epitomised by Cancelo at Man City.

On top of helping City to that formidable defensive record, he has also created the most chances (34) from open play among fellow Premier League defenders this season.

Cancelo may only have set up two goals in the top flight this season, but he has the highest number of expected assists (4.28) among defenders, just ahead of Manchester United's Luke Shaw (4.04).

 

LUCAS DIGNE

Carlo Ancelotti was delighted with the news Digne had signed a new long-term deal with Everton this week and little wonder given the full-back's impact on the side.

No Premier League defender has more assists than the 27-year-old's six this season - level with West Ham's Aaron Cresswell and one more than Andy Robertson and Shaw.

Since Digne's debut for Everton in August 2018, only Liverpool pair Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold (28) have assisted more goals than the Frenchman (17).

GYLFI SIGURDSSON

There was a point when Sigurdsson's time at Everton appeared to be up not so long ago, but the creative midfielder has more than proved his worth to the side of late.

He was been involved in six Premier League goals in 23 appearances this term - four goals and two assists - which is one more than he managed in 35 games last season.

That is a tally he will be confident of building on this gameweek, as the Iceland international has only scored more Premier League goals against Chelsea (six) than he has versus opponents Southampton (five).

 

MARCUS RASHFORD

In the week he celebrates the five-year anniversary since scoring twice on his United debut, Rashford takes on his favourite opponents in Chelsea.

The United academy product has scored five times against the Blues in all competitions and registered a couple of assists.

Only against Leicester City has he found the net as many times, while only against Newcastle United and West Ham (both seven) has he been directly involved in more goals.

HARRY KANE

If Rashford enjoys playing against Chelsea, the same is true of Kane against Tottenham's next opponents Burnley.

The England skipper has been directly involved in 10 goals in nine Premier League appearances against the Clarets, finding the net seven times and laying on three assists.

Burnley's defenders will not look forward to coming up against Kane, with Riyad Mahrez the only player to score against them more often (eight times) in their Premier League history.

 

JAMIE VARDY

Vardy's scoring record against the division's traditional top four is well known by now, particularly when it comes to facing Arsenal.

The Leicester striker has scored 11 goals in 12 previous Premier League appearances against the Gunners, including a late winner in the reverse fixture.

Those 11 strikes place Vardy behind only Wayne Rooney for goals scored against Arsenal in the competition, the United legend netting 12 times against the London club in his career.

Everton have announced star defender Lucas Digne has signed a new four-year contract.

The new deal sees the 27-year-old commit to spending the prime of his career at Goodison Park following stints at LaLiga outfit Barcelona, Ligue 1 clubs Paris Saint-Germain and Lille, and a season-long loan at Roma in Serie A.

During his nearly three seasons on Merseyside, the set-piece specialist has quickly become a key component of the Toffees defensive unit, and their attack, playing 97 games in all competitions.

Digne has recorded six assists in 16 league games this season, one short of his total in 35 matches from 2019-20, while he claimed four goals and four assists in his debut 2018-19 Premier League campaign.

The France international has expressed his desire to help lead Carlo Ancelotti's side into the Champions League during his time at the club.

"In the national team, the competition in my position, and every position, is really strong and I have to play at the best level,” Digne told evertontv, after inking a contract until 2025.

"I play in the best league and I want to play in the best cup in Europe [Champions League], for sure.

"And I want to do that with Everton."

Only Liverpool duo Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold (28) have most assists than Digne (17) of full-backs since he arrived in the Premier League.

Digne has created the second most chances (166) out of Premier League full-backs in the same period, behind Alexander-Arnold, while he has put in the third most open-play crosses (400).

He added: "We have a big project with the club and can reach something very good at the end of this season and for the next few years.

"I have seen the progress every year since joining the club, we are building a strong team.

"When you sign for Everton, it is like an amazing wedding.

"You just have to do your best every day to show Evertonians the love you have for them. That is what I do.

"I want to show them what they give me and it is just amazing.

"It was clear in my mind that I want to continue with Everton."

Raheem Sterling struck Manchester City's second goal in their 2-0 win at Burnley to move onto 99 for the club in the Premier League.

With Pep Guardiola's men starting to build an ominous lead at the top of the table, this weekend would be an ideal time for Sterling to score for just the second time against Liverpool in what would be his 11th league meeting with his former employers.

Burnley have had a poor couple of games but there's value to be had in backing three of their top performers to deliver when they host in-form Brighton and Hove Albion.

Meanwhile, Anthony Martial is back among the goals for Manchester United and could well be worth a spot in your fantasy line-up.

NICK POPE

Burnley's number one Nick Pope had a rare moment of misfortune last time out, flapping at a Bernardo Silva shot that allowed Gabriel Jesus a simple goal three minutes in.

Still, he made four saves in total to keep the scoreline reasonably respectable and take his tally to 204 in the competition since the start of last season. No goalkeeper has made more.

In fact, only Ederson (29) has kept more clean sheets than Pope (22) in that same time frame, and the man hopeful of becoming England's regular number one will be determined to add to that against Brighton and prove his City slip-up was a mere blip.

 

JAMES TARKOWSKI

Like his goalkeeper, James Tarkowski has also kept 22 Premier League clean sheets since August 2019, more than any other defender (Harry Maguire is next on 21). He has every chance of getting another here.

Brighton are on a roll after beating Tottenham and Liverpool 1-0 and they won this game last season at Turf Moor 2-1, Aaron Connolly scoring a second-half winner.

However, three of the seven Premier League meetings between these two have finished 0-0, including the reverse game in November. Indeed, this could be the first fixture in Premier League history to see no goals scored in both games in two separate campaigns (there were two 0-0 draws in 2017-18, too).

 

LUCAS DIGNE

Everton left-back Lucas Digne has already registered six assists this season, the most of any defender in the league. Since he joined the Toffees in 2018, only Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold (28) can better his tally of 17.

Digne actually splits the two Liverpool full-backs when it comes to chances created over the same time period, his 165 bettered only by Alexander-Arnold among defenders (166).

His battle with Manchester United's Aaron Wan-Bissaka could be key to the result at Old Trafford.

RAHEEM STERLING

As well as scoring 99 goals, Sterling has provided 55 assists in all competitions for City under Guardiola. Those 154 goal involvements are the most of any player in the Catalan's time in charge, eight more than next best Sergio Aguero.

The England forward has not always enjoyed facing his old club and City have a fairly miserable record at Anfield, having won just once in their previous 29 league visits – and that was back in May 2003.

But with the champions reeling from consecutive home defeats to Burnley and Brighton, Sterling may well sense the Reds are there for the taking.

 

JAMES MADDISON

In Leicester City's 2-0 win at Fulham, James Maddison set up both goals, marking the first time he has recorded multiple assists in a Premier League game.

In his previous 12 appearances in all competitions, the former Norwich City man has been directly involved in 12 goals (six scored and six assisted). There were just three games in that run where he failed to score or set up a team-mate.

Brendan Rodgers' men are flying high and will be confident of a result away to an inconsistent Wolves.

 

CHRIS WOOD

Chris Wood has only scored four league goals all season and just one of those has come in his most recent seven appearances.

That could all change against Brighton. Wood has scored eight times in league football against the Seagulls, making them his favourite opponent in English football.

 

ANTHONY MARTIAL

Anthony Martial had a positive cameo in that 9-0 demolition of Southampton, scoring twice and winning a (controversial) penalty after coming on at half-time.

Everton will not want to see Martial with renewed confidence. The France forward has managed six goals and three assists in his past 11 appearances in all competitions against the Toffees.

Even if Edinson Cavani starts in his place, Martial may well be a threat: he came off the bench to score one and set up another in a 2-0 EFL Cup win at Goodison Park in December.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.