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Everton v. Hajduk Split: Projected XI

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Assessing the Blues’ personnel options ahead of their next Europa League qualifier.

GNK Dinamo Zagreb v HNK Hadjuk Split - Prva HNL Liga Photo by Damir Sencar/EuroFootball/Getty Images

Everton’s third Europa League match of the season is nearly upon us. The Gylfi Sigurdsson news is carrying the day, but there’s an important game to be played, and a lineup for Ronald Koeman to pick. Who might be in it? Lets find out.


Tactics and Formation

Koeman took supporters on an adventure with his 5-3-2 experiment against Stoke on Saturday — one he admitted didn’t work particularly well. It seems more likely, then, that he’ll return to his preferred 4-3-3 against Hajduk.


Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)

Jordan Pickford - 9/10

The English keeper made a sublime save to preserve three points for his club against Stoke, and he’s very quickly silenced any murmuring about the fee Everton paid for him. There’s always a small chance Koeman could rotate goalies in the Europa League, but in a high stakes playoff, it seems a good bet that Pickford’s the guy.

Cuco Martina/Jonjoe Kenny - 4/10 each

We at the RBM Projected XI Conglomerate (trademark pending) have been hoping for weeks that Jonjoe Kenny gets a real shot with the first team, especially as Cuco Martina continues to be mediocre, Mason Holgate continues to be Mason Holgate, and Koeman experiments inexplicably with other players at the position.

We had almost entirely lost hope until yesterday, when the Everton U-23s played a match with Kenny not appearing anywhere in their matchday 18. With no potential exodus immediately apparent, that leads us to believe that Kenny is at least in consideration for playing against Hajduk.

We give Kenny and Martina both 40% chances to start, with Holgate still an outside possibility as well.

Ashley Williams/Phil Jagielka- 5/10 each

Everton’s experienced pair of center-backs both started against Stoke, but Ashley Williams made way at half time when Koeman changed his team’s shape. Is that an indication that Jagielka is preferred? Or simply a product of what was needed in that match?

We need a little more evidence before we’re willing to make a commitment one way or the other on that question. But, for now we expect one of Williams and Jagielka to play against Hajduk, and the other against Manchester City on Monday. Which goes where, however, is a toss-up.

Michael Keane - 9/10

Keane’s quickly proven to be the top center-back — and usually central defenders are more able to play several matches in a short period than players at most other positions. Expect Keane to start, though a Williams/Jagielka pairing isn’t utterly inconceivable.

Leighton Baines - 10/10

We’re still waiting for cover at left-back...

Morgan Schneiderlin - 9/10

With Gareth Barry gone, there’s no real cover in the deep-lying, ball-distributing role in the center of midfield. As a result, it’s almost impossible to see Schneiderlin out of the lineup against Hajduk.

Tom Davies - 6/10

Davies had a strong preseason and is continuing to make his case for more regular inclusion in the starting XI. Idrissa Gueye’s ball-winning skills will be needed less than Davies’ creative abilities in this match (and Gana covered a ton of ground last weekend), so the young Englishman may well get the start.

Davy Klaassen - 8/10

In theory, Davies could slot in for Klaassen as well. But, Klaassen has a greater need for regular football to acclimate to his new side, and his European experience certainly doesn’t hurt as well.

Kevin Mirallas - 6/10

As has been the case in basically every match so far this season, things get significantly less clear up top. Mirallas is well-rested, has European experience, and is more explosive than some other options at this position — so he’s as good a guess as any at one wing.

Ademola Lookman - 6/10

Against a likely deep-bunkering opponent, Everton will need a player capable of taking players on. Koeman may look no further than Lookman, who is also well-rested. He could also go with Sandro or Aaron Lennon at either wing, but Lookman and Mirallas marginally edge those two out.

Koeman did note that Sandro is an injury doubt for the match tomorrow — in which case both Mirallas and Lookman’s chances would jump from 60% to more like 80% or 90%.

Wayne Rooney - 9/10

Coming off of scoring Everton’s first Premier League goal of the season, Rooney will likely get the start in the mid-week match as well. His experience is clearly valued very highly by Koeman, and Rooney was arguably Everton’s best player against Stoke.

Rooney is a smart inclusion with one eye looking toward Monday’s match against Manchester City as well. The plan against Pep Guardiola’s side will likely be a straightforward bunker and counter — Rooney doesn’t have the speed or strength to fit into such a gameplan, so he’s best used in this match.

Everton v MFK Ruzomberok - UEFA Europa League Third Qualifying Round: First Leg Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Bench

  • Maarten Stekelenburg
  • Muhamed Besic — With Barry gone, another holding midfielder comes onto the bench. James McCarthy may yet be sold (and was utterly dreadful in preseason), so Besic will get the call.
  • Idrissa Gueye
  • Phil Jagielka / Ashley Williams — Whomever of this pair doesn’t start will help fill out the bench.
  • Cuco Martina/Mason Holgate/Jonjoe Kenny — More than likely, the non-starter of Martina and Kenny will make the bench, but it isn’t impossible that Holgate makes the bench either.
  • Dominic Calvert-Lewin
  • Sandro Ramirez/Aaron Lennon/Oumar Niasse — The late revelation that Sandro may miss out due to injury throws the final spot on the bench into disarray. If Lennon is healthy and Sandro isn’t, the English winger will definitely get the spot. If he’s still fighting a knock too though...the only remaining attacker in the squad is the exiled Oumar Niasse.

Given the departure of Gareth Barry, the potential absences of James McCarthy, Aaron Lennon, and Sandro Ramirez, paired with the unavailability of Gylfi Sigurdsson, tomorrow’s lineup might be a wild ride. Stay tuned.