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Coleman set for emotional Everton return against Leicester

Ireland defender is back in the squad for visit of the Foxes

2017 UEFA Europa League Playoff Everton v Hajduk Split Aug 17th Photo by Paul Keevil/Action Plus via Getty Images

You ready to go again?

I know I’m not the only Evertonian who appreciated a weekend free from Big Sam’s turgid Toffees.

The extra European games in the autumn meant Everton were playing - and a lot of the time losing - every three or four days.

It was like riding a vomit-inducing rollercoaster you couldn’t get off, with each big dipper steeper than the last.

Therefore the chance to spend a few days away from the team was a blessed relief.

The tedious draw against West Brom was symptomatic of the team’s struggles, with the only positive being Oumar Niasse’s late goal that rescued a point and avoided a fifth successive defeat.

The Sam Allardyce honeymoon period is well and truly over, with the team playing terrible football AND losing games.

Happy New Year.

Four defeats out of five has all but wiped out the buffer between Everton and the strugglers near the foot of the table.

It shows just how weak the Premier league is this season that the Toffees are still ninth despite their terrible form this season.

However, two poor results in the next four days against Leicester and Arsenal will see the team slide back into the pack.

While all this is going on we have the continued speculation leading up to the transfer deadline.

The fans are screaming out for a left-back but at time of writing it seems there isn’t a realistic target on the horizon.

If Everton are to complete any late deals they are likely to be out of the blue, as most press speculation in the run-up to the deadline is regarding outgoings.

One positive in the build-up to this game is the return of Seamus Coleman. The Republic of Ireland defender played 60 minutes for the U23s last week and has been included in the squad for Wednesday’s game.

Everton v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Photo by Adam Fradgley - AMA/WBA FC via Getty Images

It’s just a shame that - in true Everton style - Coleman’s return coincides with James McCarthy’s horrific leg break, the third Everton player to suffer such an injury in four years.

McCarthy underwent surgery earlier this week and is now recovering at home. Given it has taken Coleman more than 10 months to return it’s unlikely we will see McCarthy pull on an Everton shirt again before the end of the year.

The opposition

The appointment of Claude Puel didn’t exactly set pulses racing amongst Leicester fans when the Frenchman arrived in October.

Puel had done a solid enough job with Southampton the previous year but his rather austere demeanour meant he never really won over the affections of the fans.

Therefore his arrival at the King Power Stadium was greeted with little more than muted enthusiasm.

However, in fairness to the former Lille and Nice boss, what he may lack in dynamism he has made up for in his ability to get results.

Leicester City v Watford - Premier League Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

His first game in charge was a comfortable 2-0 win against Everton in October. Since then the Foxes have lost just four out of 19 games under his stewardship and are starting to show glimpses of the form that propelled them to that stunning title success in 2016.

They are unbeaten in all competitions since the turn of the year, conceding just one goal, to rise up to seventh and progress through to the FA Cup fifth round.

Frustratingly for Leicester (and like Everton found last season) seventh is the best they can realistically hope for in the Premier League, given the dominance of the so-called big six.

The star man is once again likely to be Riyad Mahrez, who has either scored or provided an assist in eight of his last 11 league games. However, reports the Algerian has handed in a transfer request may mean he misses out at Goodison Park, something that would be a huge boost to Everton.

Leicester City v Everton - Premier League Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

The majority of those assists are for the jet-heeled Jamie Vardy, whose lightning pace terrifies me when I look at our slow, ponderous defence.

Everton are facing a team bang in form and high in confidence - the exact opposite of where we are right now.

Team news

As mentioned, Seamus Coleman is back in the first-team squad for the first time in 10 months.

Ramiro Funes Mori is also back in training after a knee injury but isn’t ready for a first-team return.

Luke Garbutt is included in the squad and could make his first Everton appearance since May 2015.

Predicted starting XI

Pickford, Garbutt, Jagielka, Keane, Kenny, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Sigurdsson, Bolasie, Walcott, Tosun,

Final word

The optimistic side of me is hopeful the extended break since the West Brom game has allowed the side to refresh and regroup.

The negative side of me suspects we will simply be subjected to more of the same.

Leicester go into this game bang in form and their counter-attacking style looks to be perfect for facing slow opposition such as ourselves.

With a tricky to trip to Arsenal in just four days, Everton can’t really risk another damaging home defeat.

Otherwise the spectre of relegation - something we thought had been banished before Christmas - will once more lurch menacingly into view.