Jean-Philippe Gbamin is on course to be "challenging" for a place in the Everton team for the opening game of the new season.

The 25-year-old has played in all four pre-season matches and Rafa Benitez says Gbamin is "getting stronger".

Gbamin is hoping to relaunch his Everton career under Benitez after a terrible run of injuries has seen him play only three times since joining for £25m in the summer of 2019.

Benitez brought Gbamin off the bench in both of the club's friendly games in Florida and the Ivorian impressed each time.

And now the Everton manager says the midfielder is likely to be in contention for the first game of the new campaign against Southampton next month.

"It's true, he has had big problems in the past but, now, he is playing well and is getting stronger, as you say, I can see him challenging him for a position which is good news for us," Benitez said.

"Competition will improve the level of the players and the level of him. He is doing well, working hard like the rest of the midfielders and we will see in a few weeks how he is going on."

Everton have one more friendly game scheduled - the August 7 trip to Manchester United (12:45pm) - but Benitez says they may play an intra squad game at Finch Farm before the season begins, as well.

"Obviously, the pre-season is for improving the fitness and the understanding between the players but, still, we have to find a way, because it is a special year with the players coming back after the Copa America and the Euros," he explained.

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"We are improving the fitness of the players but we are still a little far away but, hopefully, in the next 14 days it will be much better and we can compete at the level we want to in the Premier League."

Benitez added: "It is important to have a rival like Manchester United, they will give us an opportunity to see the level of the players.

"In terms of another game, I don't see too much space for that because if we play another game we don't have the time with the players coming back from the Euros and Copa America at the beginning of August, so I think it will be much better to stay together, to play together and for the understanding of the players, and the manager, maybe it will be better to have a game between us."