Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti has apologised for the injury suffered by Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk during Saturday’s Merseyside derby.
Van Dijk, 29, sustained cruciate ligament damage after a challenge by Toffees goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
Ancelotti said Pickford is “really sad” that the Dutchman is injured, but denied the tackle was premeditated.
“To be clear, we are really sorry for the injury of Virgil van Dijk,” Ancelotti said.
“Every one of us hopes he can recover soon and well.”
Pickford will face no further action for the challenge as the Football Association determined the incident was seen at the time having consulted with the match officials, including the video assistant referee.
Van Dijk’s Liverpool and Netherlands team-mate Georginio Wijnaldum labelled the tackle “completely stupid”, though Everton manager Ancelotti said it was mistimed rather than malicious.
“There was this contact with Jordan Pickford: it was mistimed contact,” added the Italian. “But the fact the Premier League is so fast, it is not so difficult to arrive a little bit later.
“Jordan arrived a little bit later but his intention was to try to reach the ball. It was not to hurt Virgil van Dijk.
“To say it was premeditated, and this and that, in my opinion, is too much. Virgil van Dijk knows this.
“Jordan is really sad, really disappointed [that Van Dijk is injured]. It was a strong contact, maybe mistimed, but sometimes in football it can happen.”
Ancelotti also said that Everton’s Colombian playmaker James Rodriguez will miss Sunday’s trip to Southampton with an injury sustained in a challenge with Van Dijk in the opening stages of Saturday’s game at Goodison Park.
Captain Seamus Coleman will also miss out after being forced off with a hamstring injury during the first half, while forward Richarlison is suspended following his red card for a late tackle on Reds midfielder Thiago Alcantara.