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Sunderland at Everton: Projected XI

Assessing the Blues’ personnel options ahead of their first League Cup match of the season.

Everton v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Tomorrow represents Everton Football Club’s first must-win match of the season. Obviously, you might say - it’s an elimination cup match. It’s more than that, though. Ronald Koeman may be managing for his job. As such, the Dutchman needs to take extra care in how he sets up his side.

As is the case in any early-round league cup game, there will be room in the team for youngsters and rotation. However, the Blues have to beat Sunderland, and here’s how they may line up in doing so.

Tactics and Formation

It should be a predictable return to the 4-3-3 given the quality of the opposition on Wednesday. Koeman has been more willing to use his young, quick attackers in these types of matches so far this season, so the lineup in part revolves around that.

Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)

Maarten Stekelenburg - 7/10

Stek was one of the few bright spots in last week’s loss to Atalanta, making some solid saves to keep Everton in the match despite their best efforts to the contrary. We don’t see Pickford playing in this one, but it isn’t impossible that Koeman gives exiled Joel Robles a chance either.

Jonjoe Kenny - 6/10

Call us crazy, but we think Jonjoe might just get a start here. Cuco Martina did a ton of running on Sunday, and we see Mason Holgate playing center-back, so Kenny is the natural choice. He didn’t play with the U-23s yesterday, so he will at least be in the 18, you’d suspect.

Mason Holgate - 8/10

Michael Keane has played every minute for Everton so far, and could use a rest. The Toffees have two proven center-backs in Phil Jagielka and Ashley Williams, but Koeman may not get a better chance to play Holgate at his “natural” position than against Sunderland.

(Natural in quotes because the Projected XI Consortium thinks “Holgate is a center-back is a myth” and he simply isn’t very good — but this match will at least be a chance to test the theory out.)

Ashley Williams - 7/10

Williams has been the worst of Everton’s three regular center-backs so far this season, and this may be a chance to help get his groove back.

Leighton Baines - 9/10

Well, this is a bit embarrassing for the club, no? Baines turns 33 in December, has played every minute so far this season, and surely could use a rest. Yet, Everton’s possible cover includes a player living on Koeman Exile Island (Luke Garbutt) and a natural right-back who isn’t even a very good right-back (Cuco Martina).

The upshot? Baines’ run in the starting XI probably continues.

Muhamed Besic - 8/10

The Bosnian has been decent in limited appearances so far this season, and he’s more than capable enough to give Morgan Schneiderlin and Idrissa Gana Gueye a rest against Sunderland.

Tom Davies - 7/10

Davies did play 65 minutes on Sunday, but he could really use an easier match to get his season moving in the right direction. He was out of position against United, but this League Cup match will allow him to get back into a more natural central position.

Davy Klaassen - 9/10

Klaassen desperately needs a chance to get a full 90, and there’s no better chance than Wednesday.

Ademola Lookman - 6/10

Lookman hasn’t even made the bench for the last two matches, which is strange given his solid work at the U-20 World Cup, good preseason, and Everton’s lack of pace. This seems like the ideal place to get him back into the fold, but we’re beginning to wonder if there’s something going on with the lad that we’re unaware of.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin - 6/10

We don’t think Rooney will even make the 18 for this match — he needs a rest, both mental and physical. That leaves Calvert-Lewin and Sandro Ramirez as the two options to play striker.

We just barely give DCL the leg up. Sandro has played more recently, so Koeman will probably look to get Calvert-Lewin a match here.

Nikola Vlasic - 8/10

Koeman clearly likes his new Croatian signing, and this will be a good opportunity for him to play another game.

Livingston v Sunderland - Pre Season Friendly Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images


  • Joel Robles
  • Cuco Martina
  • Phil Jagielka
  • Idrissa Gueye
  • Aaron Lennon - We’re beginning to wonder what it’s going to take for Aaron Lennon to get another shot. He’s got pace (desperately needed) and is also a willing defender (desperately needed from the winger playing on the right in front of Martina/Holgate) — but he hasn’t made the bench for the last two matches.
  • Oumar Niasse - the Senegalese striker was left out of Everton’s U23 match on Monday, a pretty sure sign that he may be included in the team against Sunderland.
  • Sandro Ramirez

Is this lineup good enough to run Sunderland off the pitch at Goodison Park? Undoubtedly. Will they? That’s less clear. Everton are dire right now, and while some of the fixes seem obvious, Koeman hasn’t looked too inclined to make many changes recently. Would you give Oumar Niasse a run out? Start Lennon? Let us know in the comments.