Rafa Benitez drops Dominic Calvert-Lewin starting hint ahead of Everton injury return against Brighton
The England international has not played for the Toffees since August.
The striker hasn't been available for the Toffees for more than four months because of a quad injury.
It's been a frustrating time for Calvert-Lewin, who suffered a setback during his rehab period.
There are several players struggling with injuries at Goodison Park, while Covid-19 cases are also a problem.
Benitez is wary that he cannot throw Calvert-Lewin into the deep end - but expressed that a first-half hat-trick would be a perfect comeback for him.
Speaking during his pre-match press conference, Benitez said: “He’s a massive signing for us in the second part of the league.
“Last year the top scorers of this team we’re not playing this year so, if we bring him back and a few weeks later Richarlison, we have more options there - we can think of the second part totally different.
“I’ve explained before that one thing is match fitness that you can improve by playing games and the other thing is fitness.
“Fitness-wise he is getting better. Match fitness, we will see.
“Maybe he scores three goals in the first half and we don’t need to worry about his match fitness but I think the issue will be how long he can play if he starts the game or, if he comes from the bench, how much impact he can have on the game.
“We are considering all of these things, but he is training really well and he is really happy because he is with the team and is ready to play and score goals.”
Will Calvert-Lewin start for Everton against Brighton?
Having not had Calvert-Lewin available since August, Benitez won't want for him to break down and have another prolonged period on the sidelines.
It very much depends on who is available, though.
Richarlison suffered a calf injury in the 3-1 loss to Crystal Palace last month. He was expected to be out for a number of weeks.
Meanwhile, Salomon Rondon was also absent for the 1-1 draw at Chelsea on December 16 - Everton's last game.
As a result, 20-year-old forward Ellis Simms was handed his debut at Stamford Bridge.