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Sheffield Wednesday vs Everton preview – cup run needed to revive already faltering season

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The Toffees are teetering on the brink of a crisis already

Soccer - Carling Cup - Third Round - Sheffield Wednesday v Everton - Hillsborough Photo by Dave Howarth - PA Images via Getty Images

Are we really surprised it has already come to this?

Saturday’s shambolic display against Sheffield United was only made more painful because of its excruciating familiarity and inevitability.

Everton have struggled to break down tightly packed opposition defences for years, throw in a chronic weakness at defending set pieces and it’s a toxic combination that will only end one way.

Everton FC v Sheffield United - Premier League Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

But what made Saturday’s game all the more worrying was Marco Silva’s reaction to going a goal down in the second half.

His substitutions and tactical decisions were the hallmarks of a manager under pressure, making knee-jerk reactions to recent criticism.

Silva’s ability to change games when Everton go a goal down was questioned by the media in the lead-up to this game and all he did here was prove their point.

He desperately threw attacking players onto the field in a dizzying array of formations in the desperate hope that something would happen.

The team was a complete mess by the end of the match and United deserved their win, even if losing 2-0 to a side who only had one shot on target is a very Everton way of losing.

Some pundits chose to have a dig at the fans for booing at the final whistle; as if the supporters are displaying some spoilt sense of entitlement.

But the reality is that Evertonians have had to endure these kind of results for years.

Everton FC v Sheffield United - Premier League Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

West Brom in 2016 and Burnley in 2017 are just two recent examples of home defeats against inferior opposition where Everton could have played all day and not scored.

The fans are sick of having their expectations raised in the summer only to be let down with an uncomfortable bump before the clocks even go back.

Yes, we are still very early in the season, but a kind fixture list has been wasted and any ambition to challenge for a top six place looks woefully optimistic. What makes it worse is the fact the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and even Tottenham are showing signs of weakness, potentially opening up a door to the top six. The Toffees are once again wasting a golden opportunity.

All this piles the pressure on the cups to provide some relief. After 25 years without a trophy, most supporters would take a mid-table season if that meant ending that long wait for silverware.

It is stupidly early for such a game to carry so much weight, but that’s Everton’s fault for failing to learn their lessons and continuing to churn out the kind of dismal displays we saw on Saturday.

The opposition

Huddersfield Town v Sheffield Wednesday - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Like their steel city neighbours, Sheffield Wednesday were founder members of the Premier League in 1992 and spent the early years of the division competing at the top end of the table.

But after relegation in 2000 the Owls have rarely come close to returning, bar a play-off final defeat to Hull in 2016 and a semi-final defeat to Huddersfield the following year.

They have also endured two spells down in League One, though they are currently into their eighth successive season in the Championship.

They were dealt a blow in the summer when manager Steve Bruce, who only joined the club in January, quit to move to Newcastle.

Coach Lee Bullen took charge of the club’s first six games of the season before former Swansea boss Garry Monk was appointed as Bruce’s successor.

He has made an unbeaten start to life in the Wednesday dugout, with victory at Huddersfield followed up with a home draw against Fulham last weekend.

It leaves the Yorkshire club ninth in the early Championship table, just four points behind leaders Leeds.

Previous meeting

Soccer - Carling Cup - Third Round - Sheffield Wednesday v Everton - Hillsborough Photo by Dave Howarth - PA Images via Getty Images

Sheffield Wed 0-3 Everton – League Cup third round, 26 September 2007.

It is almost exactly 12 years since the two sides met at the same stage of this competition in 2007. After a goalless first half James McFadden opened the scoring early in the second period before grabbing a second with six minutes left, Yakubu then put the gloss on the result a minute later with his second goal for the Toffees.

Recent form

Everton

Sheffield United (H) Lost 2-0

Bournemouth (A) Lost 3-1

Wolves (H) – Won 3-2

Lincoln (A – Carabao Cup) Won 4-2

Aston Villa (A) Lost 2-1

Sheffield Wed

Fulham (H) Drew 1-1

Huddersfield (A) Won 2-0

QPR (H) Lost 2-1

Rotherham (A – Carabao Cup) Won 1-0

Preston (A) Lost 2-1

Team news

Everton have no fresh injury concerns with Andre Gomes, Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Jonas Lossl still sidelined. Marco Silva could make changes to try and jolt the team into action after Saturday’s shambles.

What they said

Everton v Sheffield United - Premier League - Goodison Park Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images

Everton boss Marco Silva: “It is not the moment for anyone to hide. I said it inside the dressing room too - there is nowhere we can hide, we have to show stronger character and personality. Unfortunately, in some moments (against Sheffield United) we did not see that.

“Now I don’t want anyone hiding. Not me, not them. It is a moment for us to go and play football and to take responsibility as well. In the second half (on Saturday), I didn’t see that ability. In some moments, many players were hiding and did not give solutions. I want everyone there.”

Sheffield Wednesday boss Garry Monk: “They are a Premier League team and they are expected to come here and win.

“But we’ve had two games now under myself and we’ve gained points from them and showed good character, showed good qualities but there are things we need to get better at.

“In a sense, it is a free hit but we want to win and it’s as simple as that. We’re at home and we have to use that to our advantage.

“If we can show what we did in the second half on Saturday against Everton, then we’ll fancy ourselves to have a good chance but it’s going to be very difficult.”

Final word

With Manchester City lying in wait at the end of the week, this has the potential to be a very awkward few days. Two defeats would leave Silva in a precarious position, while another early exit on Tuesday would be a crushing blow to a fanbase desperate for a cup run.

Given recent form and the pressure on the team, this has all the hallmarks of a cup upset. I dearly hope I’m wrong though and would take any sort of victory, even on penalties.