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Unsworth ready to stake early claim for permanent Everton job

Rhino begins his interim tenure with tough trip to Stamford Bridge

Bolton v Everton U23 - EFL Checkatrade Trophy Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

A whirlwind 48 hours has transformed the mood around Everton heading into Wednesday’s Carabao Cup fourth round trip to Chelsea.

Gloom and despair hung over Goodison Park on Sunday as the stands rapidly emptied with each passing Arsenal attack.

It was tough to see where the next goal was coming from let alone the next win as the Ronald Koeman era stumbled to a miserable conclusion.

But the Dutchman’s departure, coupled with David Unsworth’s interim appointment and stirring press conference, has boosted morale amongst a flagging fanbase.

Unsworth’s warm nature and obvious love for the club is a refreshing antidote to Koeman’s rather cold approach.

But while that will perhaps buy him some grace with the fans, everyone knows Unsworth’s spell in interim charge will be defined by results.

I wonder whether the presence of a cup game so soon after Sunday’s defeat pushed Everton in a quicker decision a over Koeman.

18 months ago, after Everton where thrashed 4-0 by Liverpool, the board chose to stick with a beleaguered Roberto Martinez ahead of the FA Cup semi-final four days later.

The Toffees, of course, went on to lose 2-1 to Man Utd and Martinez was gone before the month was out.

With Europa League qualification all but out of the window the club face the real prospect of seeing a second trophy fade out of contention in the space of a week.

Not that Unsworth’s temporary promotion offers any guarantees, but I’m a hell of a lot more confident now than I was at 4pm on Sunday afternoon.

The opposition

Antonio Conte admits the Carabao Cup is way down on his list of priorities, especially as he deals with a mixed start to his Premier League season.

The champions scored two late goals to overcome Watford on Saturday and end a three-game winless run, but an unconvincing display means questions remain.

The Blues are nine points off the pace in the Premier League and although they top their Champions League group, they needed a late Eden Hazard equaliser to secure a draw against Roma last week.

As a result Conte may need a result at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, even though he agreed with a journalist’s assessment in a press conference earlier this week that the competition isn’t as important to sides competing in Europe.

Chelsea’s squad also isn’t as deep as those around them in the table, with most of their squad players out on loan.

All this may increase Evertonian expectations of snatching a result. But before you get too excited remember Everton have only won at Stamford Bridge twice in 23 years, and one of those was on penalties.

Team news

Unsworth gave little away with regards to his team selection but it will be interesting to see how he attempts to rectify the flaws in the team that ultimately cost his predecessor his job.

Everton will definitely be without Idrissa Gueye through suspension after the midfielder’s red card against Arsenal on Sunday.

James McCarthy and Morgan Schneiderlin are fit though and available for selection.

David Henen and Beni Baningime joined first-team training on Tuesday and may be involved at some stage.

Predicted starting XI:

Pickford, Kenny, Jagielka, Keane, Baines, Schneiderlin, Davies, Sigurdsson, Mirallas, Lookman, Niasse.

Final word

Unsworth has made it clear he wants the permanent manager’s job so will need at the very least a spirited performance to impress the Goodison board.

The players also owe a response after Sunday’s horror show, and it is amazing how a team can suddenly decide to play after a manager has been shown the door.

With Chelsea likely to field a weakened XI the opportunity is there to get a result. And if Unsworth is to realise his dream of taking the permanent job at Goodison, they need to take it.