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Everton vs Leicester City: Match Preview

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Everton take on the high-flying Foxes at Goodison Park

Stephen Pond/Getty Images

Despite going into this game on a six-game unbeaten run there is a distinct air of frustration among the fanbase at present after a series of spurned opportunities.

Draws against Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and Norwich could – and perhaps should – have been converted into three wins. Instead the three points represents an underwhelming return and raises fears this Everton team just isn’t ruthless enough to challenge at the top of the Premier League.

The opposition

Back in August when we were assessing the fixture list the presence of Leicester near the end of December was probably seen by many Evertonians as a nice early Christmas present, tucked as it is, between games against Bournemouth, Norwich and Newcastle.

Well, we have all been proved very wrong.

It is difficult not to get swept up by Leicester’s story this year. From near down and out at the start of April the Foxes have embarked on a remarkable run that not only saw them secure safety but storm to the top of the Premier League table. Which is where they remain.

Despite spending much of last campaign bottom of the table the Foxes won seven of their last nine games to comfortably steer clear of trouble. This season under the stewardship of Claudio Ranieri, a cuddly, loveable grandfatherly figure you can’t help but like; Leicester have swept all before them with a thrilling brand of counter-attacking football.

Ranieri’s side do not dwell in possession, but instead they sit back, spring the trap, and pounce on the counter. It is the type of tactics that make me nervous – Roberto Martinez’s Everton side infamously struggles against sides who sit back and play on the counter.

The Toffees are, though, a team packed full of goals at present with Romelu Lukaku on a seven-game scoring streak in all competitions, helped by arch creator-in-chief Gerard Deulofeu.

Leicester are full of goals too, in fact they are the top scorers in the Premier League so far. And with record breaker Jamie Vardy in their ranks, it has all the makings of a thriller at Goodison Park on Saturday.

Team news

Everton are to make a late decision on James McCarthy as the Ireland midfielder continues to battle a groin injury. John Stones is fit though after picking up knee and ankle injuries at Norwich last week.

Phil Jagielka, remains sidelined until at least the end of the month while Bryan Oviedo and Steven Pienaar are unlikely to feature until the new year.

Final word

Given the goalscoring form of both sides Saturday’s game has the potential to be a classic. Everton need to start turning draws into wins but given the Foxes’ form another point may not be too bad a result.

However, for the first time this season Leicester will be forced to utilise their squad as injuries and suspension belatedly start to bite.

Saturday’s game at Goodison may well be the stiffest test both sides have faced so far this season.

Predicted starting XI

With James McCarthy still doubtful Everton look likely to name an unchanged XI from last weekend’s draw at Norwich, with Arouna Kone continuing to start ahead of the likes of Steven Naismith and Kevin Mirallas.

Howard, Coleman, Baines, Stones, Funes Mori, Barry, Cleverley, Deulofeu, Barkley, Kone, Lukaku.