Can Rayan Ait-Nouri cement his place in the XI in Fernando Marcal’s absence?

With Fernando Marcal confirmed out for Monday’s match with Everton - will Rayan Ait-Nouri be able to cement his place in the starting eleven?

Bruno Lage confirmed that Fernando Marcal will be missing for the second straight game following the injury he picked up during the win over Aston Villa.

But every cloud has a silver lining and for a lot within the Wanderers faithful, this silver lining is a big one.

Rayan Ait-Nouri is a very popular player within the fanbase and he’s the man that steps in in the Brazilian’s absence. For many, he’s even seen as an upgrade.

The youngster has found it hard to tie down a permanent spot in the team so far this season but with Marcal on the shelf, he now has the perfect opportunity to prove to the manager, why it’s him that should be in from the off every week.

Speaking on what he’s made of Ait-Nouri’s performances so far this season, Lage said: “Since the first day I’ve been happy with Rayan.”

“He knows he’s competing against Marcal for that position but also I am happy with Marcal because I think Marcal is now playing more minutes in nine games than he did all of last year.

“I want to manage the players the best I can. Even the guys with some problems and you know Marcal had some problems before, so we need to manage them because what I want is the players available for the games and this is the kind of competition I want in the game.

“He knows he needs to improve his defensive game and he knows he needs to be competitive during 90 minutes, so that’s the things I want from my players.

“Every time they need to be ready so when they have their chance to play, you need to give me ‘this’ but for 90 minutes.”

The manager was also asked whether or not Ait-Nouri will have the opportunity to make the spot his own in Marcal’s absence.

“Depending what Rayan gives me,” he added.

“Sometimes the people say, ‘why do you give game time to certain players?’ No. The players need to give to me.

“I choose the eleven and sometimes I need to take difficult decisions because some things I need to understand at each moment.

“For example, Ruben gave us the goal in the last minute against Aston Villa but next game I choose to not pick him because I have more information than you guys to not put him in the game and I take that decision.

“I need to be careful about that because I don’t want to lose any more players.

“Every moment, they need to prepare themselves to be better every day because when they play in the game, they need to give me something. A good example is Hwang. I gave him a chance and he gave something for us, that’s why he’s playing.

“So Rayan, he knows, now he has the chance - he needs to take it but I want more from him and I want more during 90 minutes.”

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