Dominic Calvert-Lewin missed Everton’s friendly defeat to Manchester United. Picture: Peter Powell/ Getty Images
The Spaniard takes charge of his first competitive game as Toffees boss, having succeeded Carlo Ancelotti in June.
Benitez will be looking to hit the ground running to alleviate any early pressure. Being a former Liverpool manager, he has his detractors among the Goodison Park fans.
But the ex-Real Madrid chief may be short of firepower in the striking department for the Toffees’ 2021-22 Premier League opener.
Who’s definitely absent?
Everton have a Covid-19 outbreak in the camp.
Benitez has disclosed that five players are following protocol and are self-isolating.
One of those is James Rodriguez, while Andre Gomes, Moise Kean and Jean-Philippe Gbamin all missed last Saturday’s 4-0 friendly loss for unknown reasons. The trio could also be isolating.
Benitez said: “We have five players in isolation. I’ll not name too many players because it’s better not to do it. You can guess, but we have some names who will not be available for tomorrow.”
Cenk Tosun is the only senior player confirmed as injured.
The Turkish striker suffered damage to his patella tendon while on loan at Besiktas last season.
Tosun is on the treatment table until at least October.
Twenty-year-old Ellis Simms won’t be back for another month with a groin injury.
The centre-forward scored eight goals in 21 games to help Blackpool secure League One promotion last season.
Everton had concerns up front at the start of the week and did have a senior option available against Manchester United.
It meant Demarai Gray had to operate as a false number nine.
However, the Blues have been boosted by the return of two key men.
Richarlison has flown back to Merseyside after inspiring Brazil to Olympic glory at Tokyo 2020.
It was expected that the former Watford forward would have a break, but he’s returned to training and is set to be involved.
There’s other good news, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin also being passed fit after suffering a toe injury.
Could a surprise selection be sprung?
It is unlikely.
Had Everton been without a striker, there could have been temptation to thrust 18-year-old Lewis Dobbin in at the the deep end.
The teenager bagged three hat-tricks for the under-23s in pre-season and came off the bench in pre-season at Old Trafford.
But with Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin back, it’s unlikely Dobbin will play from the start, but may make the bench.
What about the opponents?
After losing last season’s 13-goal top scorer Danny Ings to Aston Villa this summer, Southampton will be relieved James Ward-Prowse, who netted nine times in 2020-21, is fit to feature at Goodison.
The St Mary’s captain had been struggling with a knee injury throughout pre-season.
The only absentee for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side is youngster Will Smallbone, who’s out for the long term with a knee setback.
Starting XI: Jordan Pickford, Seamus Coleman, Ben Godfrey, Michael Keane, Lucas Digne, Demarai Gray, Allan, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Andros Townsend, Richarlison, Dominic Calvert-Lewin
Subs: Asmir Begovic, Yerry Mina, Mason Holgate, Tom Davies, Fabian Delph, Anthony Gordon, Lewis Dobbin.