It can be considered pretty hyperbolic to say that Everton’s 38-game 2016-17 season will come down to the results of two games in four days, but it’s true. Those two matches are away at Liverpool on Saturday April 1st and away at Manchester United on Tuesday April 4th.
Everton currently sit in seventh place, tied in points with Arsenal in sixth, but the Gunners have two games in hand. United are two points ahead in fifth, and also have two games in hand over the Blues. The Reds are in fourth, having played the same number of games as the Toffees but six points ahead.
If Everton harbour any hopes of finishing in the top six, they will need to go and get positive results in the two upcoming games. The preparation for the season-deciders has been anything but positive however, with multiple injuries laying waste to Ronald Koeman’s best-laid plans.
Among his starters, Morgan Schneiderlin left the game against Hull City two weekends ago with a calf injury, and remains under observation. Seamus Coleman then suffered a horrendous injury in the Republic of Ireland versus Wales World Cup qualifier and is out for a fee months.
Koeman’s backups were also hit with a double blow. Despite the Dutchman’s concerns over James McCarthy’s fitness, he was selected to start for Ireland and then pulled out at the last minute having possibly aggravated his hamstring. And then last night Ramiro Funes Mori was stretchered off holding his left knee during Argentina’s loss at Bolivia.
Unfortunately, Everton have had a pretty miserable record lately winning away at their next two hosts. The last win at Anfield was back in 1999, and though the Blues finally won at Old Trafford a couple of years ago, it was their only win there since 1992 when the Premier League started.
However, all is not lost as Koeman has proven himself to be a shrewd competitor and has more times than not proven to be successful with the squad selection and tactical changes that he has made.
The tactical flexibility he has brought in means the Everton players have been quite comfortable switching between the 4-3-3 preferred lately and the 5-man backline we’ve seen at different times during the season. Even a 4-4-1-1 has been used when it’s looked like Romelu Lukaku has been isolated up top.
Click here to read what our resident analyst Adam thinks Koeman will do for the two upcoming games.
Two Everton wins at Liverpool and United would certainly throw the cat among the canaries as the scramble for European spots intensifies in the next month or so. However, with a seven-point lead over West Bromwich Albion in eighth, even two losses doesn’t send the Blues into a tailspin, though it’ll certainly make contending for that last Europa League spot much more exciting.
How do you think Everton will do in the next two games?