Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford (left) has come under fire for his tackle on Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk (AFP)
Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti has defended goalkeeper Jordan Pickford over a reckless tackle that injured Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk, saying suggestions it was pre-meditated were "not fair".
The England number one has come in for heavy criticism after his challenge in last week's Merseyside derby, which left the Dutch defender with knee ligament damage.
Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum suggested the goalkeeper was "stupid" and made the challenge without concern for his opponent's welfare.
But Ancelotti has dismissed that interpretation and said everyone at the club is sorry about Van Dijk's injury, which will keep him out for several months.
"To be clear, we are really sorry for the injury of Virgil van Dijk. Every one of us hopes he can recover soon and well," he told Everton TV.
"There was this contact with Jordan Pickford. It was mistimed contact but the fact the Premier League is so fast, it is not so difficult to arrive a little bit later."
The Everton boss said his goalkeeper's intention had been to win the ball, not to hurt Van Dijk.
"To say it was pre-meditated and this and that, in my opinion, is too much," he said. "Virgil van Dijk knows this. This is football and unfortunately you can be injured.
"Jordan is really sad, really disappointed (Van Dijk is injured) but to say it was pre-meditated, it was stupid, is not fair.
"It was a strong contact, maybe mistimed, but sometimes in football it can happen."
Ancelotti also revealed forward James Rodriguez and captain Seamus Coleman are out of Sunday's visit to Southampton after sustaining injuries last weekend.
Everton will also be without Richarlison, who begins a three-match suspension for his red card against Liverpool.
(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)