What a difference a year makes.
Twelve months ago, Everton’s defence was a complete shambles. On this day in 2017 they conceded five at home to Atalanta. Three days later they shipped four away at a Southampton side that had only scored six goals at home all season, resulting in an SOS call to sam Allardyce. Enough said.
Fast-forward 12 months and the Toffees backline looks much more solid - with an actual left-footed player at left-back (sorry Cuco) and a fit-again Seamus Coleman on the right. The centre-back selection remains an issue, but in entirely different circumstances to last year.
Michael Keane has been a revelation this season and deservedly earned a recall to the England squad last week. He is highly likely to keep his place against Cardiff - but who will play alongside him?
Kurt Zouma had done nothing wrong since coming into the side but was forced to sit out the draw at parent club Chelsea a fortnight ago. That allowed Yerry Mina to make his first start and make instant impression, earning the Premier League Man of the Match award.
Two into three doesn’t go - but it is an equation Marco Silva relishes, even throwing club captain Phil Jagielka into the mix.
Speaking at his pre-match news conference, he said:
“In my mind we have five options [for centre back]. Tomorrow I have to take the decision, but it is a good headache.”
“It’s a normal situation for a club like us. I am here to look for each match and understand what will be the best squad list for each match.
“[The players] are working everyday. One match we played Michael and Zouma with Jagielka on the bench and the next he is not on the squad list.
“If you have a good squad with competition you have a good headache to decide the best XI. It’s a good sign for us. That means they are working very hard.
“It’s good decisions for me, a good headache for me. It reflects the quality we have.”
Silva was also asked about Keane’s revival in form after a torrid first season on Merseyside that led to many questioning whether he had a long-term future at the club.
“It’s a different Michael Keane now to the Michael Keane that started pre-season and last season.
“At the moment, of course, he is improving. The same things I say about Zouma I say about Michael.
“In our offensive process the central defenders are really important as well. He has the conditions to improve and improve and improve.
“He achieved an important thing to be recalled by the national team.”
It’s a tough selection decision for Silva to make. But with so many games coming up between now and the end of the year it’s likely every player will be utilised at some stage in order to navigate through such a hectic schedule.