Everton head into the Den tomorrow with a real opportunity to construct an honest-to-God cup run. They’ve gotten two unusually good draws in a row in Lincoln City and Millwall, will be on a week’s worth of rest when the match in South London kicks off, Liverpool are already out, and one of Manchester United or Arsenal will be out as well after this round.
Sure, Marco Silva probably needs to keep one eye on Tuesday’s league game against Huddersfield Town, but if we’re being honest, the match against the Lions is more important. Will Silva send out the first team?
Tactics and Formation
Given that this is likely Everton’s last chance to make a run at something tangible this season (barring a dash to a seventh-place finish and the potential Europa League spot therein), we suspect Marco Silva will send out a normal-looking lineup in the standard 4-3-3.
It certainly isn’t impossible that Silva rests one or two key players (there is certainly at least one we hope he does rest), but it shouldn’t substantially impact the overall look of the team given the quality of the opposition.
Millwall is not a particularly good defensive team, having given up the fifth-most goals in the Championship. That seems unlikely to change what you’d expect from them tactically — a bunker and counter approach — but it does mean that the Toffees could have more success against that approach on Saturday than they have for most of the season.
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Jordan Pickford - 9/10
Pickford started the Lincoln City match earlier this month, so it’s almost impossible to see Silva going away from him here.
Lucas Digne - 8/10
Leighton Baines still looked more than competent against Lincoln City, but Digne has been probably Everton’s best player this season, so in a match with such heavy stakes, we think Silva will stick with the Frenchman.
Yerry Mina - 8/10
Kurt Zouma has been better than Yerry Mina this season, and it hasn’t been particularly close. That said, the Toffees are coming off a couple of questionable defensive performances (the clean sheet against Bournemouth was unlikely to say the least), and eventually the Toffees are going to need to fully integrate their marquee defensive signing.
A match in which the defender’s ability to distribute the ball could be key to breaking down a deep-lying opponent is the perfect scenario to get the Colombian back into the action.
Michael Keane - 7/10
Keane has been the rock for the defense this season, bouncing back in a big way after a difficult and injury-plagued debut season. Against Lincoln City, Silva went with Zouma and Mina, and it’s quite feasible that he does so again, looking to rest the Englishman. But, Keane has been the most consistent of the trio, and edges ahead of Zouma in this one.
Seamus Coleman - 7/10
Andre Gomes - 7/10
Marco, listen to us buddy — Andre needs a rest. Just look at him. That chiseled core. The perfect hair. Eyes you could stare into for days.
Wait, what were we talking about again?
RIGHT! Rest for Andre. The Portuguese midfielder has looked utterly exhausted in his last few appearances, and he’s simply not operating at anywhere near the efficiency he was early in the season — and Everton needs the player at his best to have any chance against decent opposition.
But, Marco has shown no signs of heeding those warnings, so we unfortunately expect that he’ll be trotted out and immediately run into the ground in this one.
Idrissa Gueye - 9/10
Gylfi Sigurdsson - 9/10
Everyone’s favorite Icelander could probably use a break, much like Andre, but the Toffees just don’t have any real hope of breaking down a deep-lying opponent without him.
Ademola Lookman - 8/10
Having finally gotten an extended run in the lineup, Lookman has been just about exactly what Everton supporters hoped he’d be. He’s dangerous on the dribble, creative in his passing, and even converted a chance in front of goal. He’s the sort of player a team must have when you expect to face ten men behind the ball for 90 minutes.
Theo Walcott - 7/10
Bernard’s effectiveness has waned, and Silva seems determined to live or die (most likely die) by Richarlison the striker. That opens up a spot for Walcott to return to the starting lineup, allowing Lookman to return to his preferred left side with Walcott on his preferred right.
Richarlison - 8/10
Look, we don’t know what’s going on at striker either. Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been anywhere from decent to quite good up top, and Cenk Tosun hasn’t gotten a real chance to make an impact in almost two months.
But, Silva continues the Richarlison-at-striker experiment, despite the fact that the Brazilian hasn’t scored in a start since December 10. Given the importance of this match, and Silva’s bizarre commitment to this setup, we begrudgingly expect to see No. 30 up top on Saturday.
Cenk Tosun - The Turkish striker has started exactly one match since September — and I’m not entirely sure why. He’s by no means a world-beater, but the fact that Richarlison keeps getting chances at striker while Tosun sits and watches is utterly baffling.
What do you think? Should James McCarthy or Cenk Tosun get a run out? Morgan Schneiderlin? Let us know your view on how Marco Silva should approach tomorrow’s FA Cup contest.