Everton return from the international break with a pretty straightforward task - figuring out a way to neutralize the firepower of Manchester City. The match is at Goodison Park, which helps, and Sam Allardyce has gotten unexpected results against two other top six teams (Liverpool and Chelsea, both away).
Problem is, the Blues are missing Gylfi Sigurdsson, and Idrissa Gueye will have to pass a late fitness test. How will they line up?
Tactics and Formation
Sam Allardyce has used a back five against top teams on a few occasions, with limited success. We don’t think he’s really learned from those experiences (he’s not the learning type, if we’re being honest), but frankly the Toffees don’t have enough healthy, in-form center-backs to make that kind of setup possible.
Instead, it’ll likely be the typical 4-3-3, though injuries in the center of midfield will change some of the personnel we’ve seen in recent weeks.
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Jordan Pickford - 10/10
Seamus Coleman - 10/10
Michael Keane - 9/10
Phil Jagielka - 9/10
Leighton Baines - 10/10
After a season of injuries, poor form, and questionable managerial decisions, Everton may have finally settled on its best back four — and it’s the one most people probably would have guessed at the start of the season. Coleman and Baines are obvious inclusions.
At center-back, we’ve seen an improvement in Michael Keane’s game as he’s gotten healthier and been more regularly included. We’ve been happy with Phil Jagielka’s play pretty much all season — even if his manager hasn’t been.
Of course, if this group gets ripped apart by a talented Manchester City side this weekend, will Big Sam (needlessly) go back to the drawing board?
Tom Davies - 8/10
We haven’t been particularly impressed with Davies of late, but injuries to Idrissa Gueye and Gylfi Sigurdsson have largely forced Allardyce’s hand here.
Morgan Schneiderlin - 8/10
The Frenchman has been waiting for another chance for quite a long time now, and with Gana sidelined at least for a few weeks, this looks to be his shot. Success during this spell could see him reinstated in the first-XI picture going into next season; failure likely means a departure from the club this summer.
Idrissa Gueye will have a late fitness test to see what part he will play in the game today.
Wayne Rooney - 10/10
Dominic Calvert-Lewin - 7/10
We don’t particularly like seeing DCL in a wide position, but the sale of Aaron Lennon made the striker Everton’s best defensive winger as well. Look for him to track back tons in an effort to neutralize City’s dangerous wide players.
Theo Walcott - 10/10
Cenk Tosun - 10/10
The left side of the Everton attack might still be in question, but the center and right are surely settled for the remainder of the campaign.
- Joel Robles
- Cuco Martina
- Ramiro Funes Mori - The Argentine made the bench for a national team friendly during the international break, so he presumably is well enough to play if called upon. With Mason Holgate injured and Ashley Williams still Ashley Williams (also, he’s suspended), he’s the obvious choice to make the bench.
- Davy Klaassen - Injuries in the center of the midfield will afford the Dutchman a few chances in the final weeks of the season, we suspect. But, throwing him in at the deep end against Manchester City isn’t the way to start his redemption tour.
- Beni Baningime
- Yannick Bolasie
- Oumar Niasse
Injuries and suspensions to some of the Everton regulars mean we could be in for a long Saturday afternoon.
Then again, it’s been a long year.