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Koeman under pressure as Burnley visit Goodison

Focus is squarely on the Toffees boss in the aftermath of another poor result

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

Everton were dealt another harsh lesson as to the fine margins of football in Thursday’s game against Apollon Limassol.

The Toffees were two minutes away from another morale-boosting victory after a much improved second half performance.

That would have made it three wins in a row in all competitions and restored some much needed confidence after a rocky few weeks.

Unfortunately a sloppy foul given away and poor marking from a free-kick allowed Apollon to equalise and heap further pressure on manager Ronald Koeman.

His future has been questioned by some of the more radical parts of the fanbase, particularly on social media (hardly the bastion of calm, measured thinking admittedly).

It’s very unlikely the Dutchman will be going anywhere anytime soon, but some of his tactical decisions do deserve some scrutiny. As does a summer transfer policy that is looking more and more botched as the weeks go by.

Once again the same old issues reared their head against Apollon, namely a lack of width and pace.

Things improved with the introduction of Nikola Vlasic and Dominic Calvert-Lewin. And with Oumar Niasse also available to return, Everton’s frontline may finally have some of the dynamism it’s frustratingly lacked all season.

Koeman is desperately scratching around for the right formation to suit his new-look squad. Once he finds it then the team may be ready to embark on some sort of positive run.

But the longer this wretched run of form goes on the howls on discontent are only going to get louder.

The opposition

Founder members of the Football League in 1888 (along with Everton) and two times champions of England, Burnley are one of the grand old teams of English football.

The fact they are also only one of five clubs to have played in all four English divisions shows the Clarets have seen plenty of tough times as well as good.

It’s certainly a buoyant club at present after their credible 16th place finish in the Premier League last season, the first time they have avoided relegation from the top flight since 1976.

Despite having a fraction of the budget some of their rivals enjoy, Burnley have learnt to punch above their weight, diligently lead by their talented up-and-coming manager - the magnificently gruff-voiced Sean Dyche.

The basis of Burnley’s success last season was their home form, with 33 of their 40 points earned at Turf Moor.

Ironically, this season Burnley have turned their tables and go into this game unbeaten away from home so far. Given those games have been against Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool that is no mean feat.

Despite losing Andre Gray and Michael Keane over the summer the team does not look to have been significantly weakened.

Chris Wood was brought in from Leeds to replace Gray and already has three goals to his name. Meanwhile James Tarkowski has slotted alongside Ben Mee in a well organised Clarets backline.

The only downside to the club’s season so far has been an injury to goalkeeper Tom Heaton, who is likely to be out for several months with a dislocated shoulder.

Team news

Phil Jagielka and Michael Keane will be assessed after they missed Thursday’s game against Apollon Limassol with hamstring and foot injuries respectively.

Wayne Rooney is fit to play despite suffering an arm injury during the Apollon game.

Nikola Vlasic and Dominic Calvert-Lewin are pushing for starts, while Oumar Niasse must also be in contention after his heroics last weekend.

Predicted starting XI

Pickford, Baines, Williams, Keane, Kenny, Gueye, Schneiderlin, Sigurdsson, Rooney, Vlasic, Niasse.

Final word

While it is far too early to panic (even if plenty of blues are) the team - and Koeman - desperately need a win on Sunday.

Another defeat, complete with the now predicable Goodison boos, will only foster the sense of crisis that is brewing around Goodison Park.

Not that a win is by any means an easy task. Burnley have shown themselves to be doughty, stubborn opponents and will not roll over.

If anything such a tough, well organised team is exactly the sort of side a timid, one-paced Everton do not want to play right now.

If we ever need an early goal (or two) to settle the nerves it’s Sunday. Because the longer it stays goalless the more toxic the atmosphere will become.

I doubt this will be one for the purists but frankly given our form I don’t care.

Just win please Everton!