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Unsworth looking to build case for permanent appointment

Rhino hopeful his Everton side can build on their encouraging performance against Chelsea

Chelsea v Everton - Carabao Cup Fourth Round Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

It shows how bad things had got under Ronald Koeman that a spirited defeat was greeted so warmly by the Everton fans on Wednesday.

Despite losing 1-0 the mood among the fans after the game was one of gentle optimism, a sense of relief that the Everton we all know and love was lurking there under the surface all along.

Some fans were criticised for being so positive after what was, in the cold light of day, another chance of winning a trophy vanquished.

But far from being “small time” it was a recognition of the work done by David Unsworth to try and restore some spirit into the side after just two days in charge.

Everton should have at least taken the game to extra-time at Stamford Bridge, but their lack of cutting edge (not for the first – or last – time) let them down.

But at least we created chances – something we were failing to do in the dying embers of Koeman’s reign.

And if the team can maintain that level of performance on Sunday then they have a great chance of getting a result.

What impact that will have on the board’s managerial choice remains to be seen. Unsworth deserves these next few games to show what he can do. I admire the fact he is so open about wanting the job, it’s a wonderful opportunity and a challenge he is fully embracing.

Should Rhino pick up a few wins before the international break I wouldn’t be surprised if he isn’t given the job until the end of the season.

The summer is generally an easier time to change boss so there may well be a greater choice of managers out there than currently.

Plus, if Unsworth makes a decent impression he will present Farhad Moshiri and Bill Kenwright with the easiest decision they’ll probably ever have to make.

The opposition

Leicester were arguably even more ruthless than Everton in dispensing of manager Craig Shakespeare after just eight months in charge.

Shakespare, who replaced Claudio Ranieri in February, guided the Foxes away from relegation trouble and took them to the Champions League quarter-finals last season.

However, a slow start to this season was enough for the Leicester chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha (yes, I did cut and paste) to change managers once more.

Michael Appleton won two matches in caretaker charge but that wasn’t enough to earn the permanent position, with that honour going to former Southampton boss Claude Puel.

Puel’s appointment raised some eyebrows given he wasn’t particularly popular with Saints fans, who were unhappy with his style of football.

He did, however, guide Southampton to eighth place in the Premier League and their first major cup final for 14 years.

It all makes for an intriguing sub-plot on Sunday, with much of the attention focused on the two dugouts.

But with Everton currently in the relegation zone and Leicester just one point clear, matters on the pitch will be just as significant.

Team news

Unsworth has confirmed he has no fresh injury concerns ahead of the trip to the King Power Stadium.

That means Aaron Lennon and James McCarthy both came through Wednesday’s game unscathed upon their return from injury - though there are reports the latter may well have broken down again.

Nikola Vlasic and Morgan Schneiderlin will be available after missing the Chelsea defeat through injury and illness respectively.

Predicted starting XI

Everton predicted XI: Pickford, Holgate, Jagielka, Keane, Baines, Gueye, Schneiderlin, Sigurdsson, Lennon, Lookman, Calvert-Lewin.

Last word

Wednesday’s game at Stamford Bridge was a bit of a free hit for Unsworth given he had only just taken temporary charge.

But with Premier League points at stake on Sunday he knows a result is imperative if Everton are to pull clear of danger.

Leicester have had an equally poor start to the season but two wins in a week and the arrival of Puel should give them fresh impetus.

That should lead to an entertaining, high-intensity game, with both sides in dire need of a result.

If Everton can replicate the spirit and intensity shown in midweek then they certainly have a chance.