It is easy to forget amongst all the excitement about Carlo Ancelotti that Everton have a season-defining game to prepare for on Wednesday.
There is a frenzied desperation to end that long wait for a trophy, which will tick over into a 25th year at the end of the month.
Everton’s struggles in the league and the FA Cup draw pitting them against Liverpool at Anfield only increases the focus on the Leicester City match. Lose and, once again, the season is effectively over.
Such a knife-edge encounter should ensure a raucous atmosphere and with Duncan Ferguson in the dugout, it is likely we will see Goodison at its ferocious best.
Ferguson has restored a piece of the club’s soul since stepping into the manager’s chair. His impact is even more admirable when you consider the team’s crippling injury list.
Sunday’s draw at Manchester United wasn’t pretty, but they showed incredible character and spirit to grind out the result, something the side has been badly lacking in recent months.
Ferguson has also given the club some precious breathing space as the continue their pursuit of a new manager.
Repeated thrashings by the likes of Southampton and Atalanta in November 2017 forced the club into the arms of Sam Allardyce. The results against Chelsea and Manchester United means there is no need to panic.
At time of writing it looks like Ancelotti will be the man, one of the most decorated managers to take the top job at Goodison Park.
A place in a cup semi-final would be a wonderful gift for the new boss, and a fitting way for Ferguson to end his eventful caretaker tenure.
Given it is only two weeks since our last meeting, Leicester need no introduction. Since that agonising defeat at the King Power Brendan Rodgers’ eased past Watford FC 2-0 before thrashing Aston Villa 4-1 at Villa Park to make it a club-record eight Premier League wins in a row.
However, they endured a frustrating afternoon on Saturday when they could only be held to a 1-1 draw by Norwich City, leaving them a massive 10 points behind leaders Liverpool (urgh).
They are three-time winners of the League Cup, famously lifting the trophy twice in four seasons between 1997 and 2000. The Foxes have reached this stage of the competition for the third season in a row, losing to eventual winners Manchester City on the previous two occasions. They haven’t made it to the semi-finals since they last won the trophy in 2000.
Leicester 1-2 Everton, December 1, 2019 (match report)
A horrible afternoon at the King Power began brightly when Richarlison headed the Toffees into a first half lead. Jamie Vardy levelled with 22 minutes left before Kelechi Iheanacho struck the cruelest of blows in the fourth minute of stoppage-time, his goal eventually given after a VAR check showed he was onside by the tightest of margins. It spelled the beginning of the end for Marco Silva’s tenure.
Manchester United (A) Drew 1-1
Chelsea (H) Won 3-1
Liverpool (A) Lost 5-2
Leicester City (A) Lost 2-1
Norwich City (H) Lost 2-0
Norwich City (H) Drew 1-1
Aston Villa (A) Won 4-1
Watford FC (H) Won 2-0
Everton (H) Won 2-1
Brighton & Hove Albion (A) Won 2-0
Everton will definitely be without Lucas Digne, who was forced off with a groin injury during the first half against Manchester United.
Gylfi Sigurdsson and Djibril Sidibe missed that game through illness and will be assessed ahead of the game. Fabian Delph is not ready to return from a hamstring strain.
What they said
Everton caretaker boss Duncan Ferguson: “After the Chelsea result and that atmosphere at the ground, which was incredible, I’m sure they’ll want to go again on Wednesday and for us all to pull together again.
“We need them and I am sure they will deliver.
“Leicester are a great team, very strong in the transition, and they’re going to be a really tough test.
“They’re undefeated in 10 games, so it’s going to be a big ask.
”But we’re at Goodison, we’re at the fortress, and we need to make it a bear pit.”
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers: “I think it’s going to be a tough game for us. I think we recognised that it was going to be a tough place for us to go in the draw.
“However, we look forward to it. We want to try and get through to the semi-finals.
“In the last couple of years, the team has just fell short at the quarter-final stage, so we’re looking to make the semi and go there and be ready to work for it.”
Defeat on Wednesday would certainly take the wind out of Evertonian sails and puncture the optimism that has gathered in recent days.
A place in the last four and a genuine chance to win a trophy would give us all something to look forward to after a tough 12 months on the pitch.
Ferguson has reconnected the connection between the players and the supporters, a connection which should hopefully ensure the ‘bear pit atmosphere’ he has asked for on Wednesday.
But blood and guts won’t be enough to get past an impressive and in-form Leicester side, who are likely to take it just as seriously as Everton. Quality will also be needed if they are to make it through and keep the dream alive going into 2020.