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Everton at Southampton match preview - can depleted Toffees maintain unbeaten start?

A number of key players are missing for the trip to St Mary’s

Southampton FC v Everton FC - Premier League
Tom Davies scored the opening goal during Everton’s 2-1 at Southampton last season
Photo by Tony McArdle - Everton FC/Everton FC via Getty Images

After last weekend’s feisty Merseyside derby, Everton travel to the south coast looking to maintain their unbeaten start to the season and preserve their lead at the top of the Premier League.

The spectacular fallout from Saturday’s game is only just showing signs of dying down, with the week’s events showing the best and worst of football fandom.

The anger of Liverpool fans was understandable, though some crossed the line, while the hysterical reaction from certain sections of the media only succeeded in unnecessarily fanning the flames.

Everton v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Everton fans were not totally innocent either, though it was also encouraging to see the active support given to Jordan Pickford after the abuse suffered by him and his family.

Liverpool themselves were keen to turn the heat up on Everton, with Jurgen Klopp and Georginio Wijnaldum’s comments on Tuesday appearing very deliberate.

The Toffees took their time to respond, but Carlo Ancelotti’s apology and revelation that James Rodriguez was injured by Van Dijk should put a stop to the accusation it is only Everton who are guilty of bad challenges in derby games.

The furore distracted from what was a battling if not totally fluent performance from Everton, with several players looking weary following their travels on international duty.

But by coming from behind twice to earn a point, the Toffees once again showed a resilience sorely lacking over recent seasons, a key milestone in their development under Ancelotti.

Everton v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

The next test is to see how they cope without several key players, with Richarlison suspended and James doubtful for the tricky trip to St Mary’s.

Another positive result there would bring genuine belief that their presence in the upper echelons of the Premier League table can become a lengthy one.

The opposition

No assessment of Southampton’s recent progress can go by without mentioning THAT 9-0 defeat to Leicester.

Saints fans are probably tired of it now, but the club’s response to that freak result is admirable and highlights their determination to try and maintain stability in an era where knee-jerk decisions are the norm.

After all, Southampton went on to lose their next three matches in all competitions after that Foxes mauling, including a 2-1 home reverse against Everton, to drop into the relegation zone.

However, a run of seven wins from 12 games lifted them safely into mid-table. Four defeats from their subsequent five games stalled progress before the shutdown, but the Saints were mightily impressive during the summer restart, winning five, drawing three and losing just one of their remaining games to secure an 11th-place finish, three points above Everton.

Everton FC v Southampton FC - Premier League Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images

They have been similarly up and down this season, losing their first three games in all competitions before winning two and drawing one of their next three, the latter being a 3-3 thriller at Chelsea that saw them recover from three goals down.

Danny Ings is the obvious one to watch. The former Liverpool player has put his injury struggles behind him to become a striker of genuine quality, with only Jamie Vardy scoring more than his 22 Premier League goals last season, and has already scored four in six appearances this term.

Team news

Everton v Liverpool - Premier League - Goodison Park Photo by Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images

James Rodriguez remains in contention despite suffering severe bruising following a challenge by Virgil van Dijk during last weekend’s derby.

The Colombian resumed training on Friday and will train again on Saturday before a final decision is made

Seamus Coleman is also absent after being forced off with a hamstring strain and Jonjoe Kenny is still unavailable, meaning Ben Godfrey will come in for his full debut after impressing as a substitute last weekend.

Richarlison misses out as he begins his three-match ban, while Mason Holgate and Jarrad Branthwaite are still a few weeks away from a return.

Recent form

Everton

Liverpool (H) Drew 2-2

Brighton (H) Won 4-2

West Ham (H – Carabao Cup) Won 5-2

Crystal Palace (A) Won 2-1

Fleetwood (A – Carabao Cup) Won 5-2

Southampton

Chelsea (A) Drew 3-3

West Brom (H) Won 2-0

Burnley (A) Won 1-0

Tottenham (H) Lost 5-2

Brentford (H – Carabao Cup) Lost 2-0

Previous meeting

Everton 1-1 Southampton – July 9 2020

Everton FC v Southampton FC - Premier League Photo by Peter Byrne/Pool via Getty Images

The Toffees came from behind to earn a point in a drab encounter during the summer restart.

Danny Ings put the Saints ahead shortly after James Ward-Prowse had fired a penalty over the bar. Richarlison superbly latched onto Lucas Digne’s 40-yard pass to equaliser shortly before the break.

What they said

Crystal Palace v Everton - Premier League Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti: “It will be a tough game. Southampton is a team with a really clear identity.

“They try to play with high intensity without the ball. They are really compact and it is difficult to find space to play.

“We have to be smart and clever with the ball. If we are clever with the ball, we have a chance to win the game.

“To win against them you have to be 100 per cent I would like to be at 100 per cent because our target is to win.”

Southampton Training Session Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images

Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl: “It will be an interesting game, I think. An intense game against a strong side. For us, it is another chance to show up and show that we can also be a competitive opponent against this strong side and this is the goal for the weekend.

“We know that we played a very good game after lockdown against them, with a 1-1, and normally we could win this game I think. It was a good game and we want to be this strong opponent that we expect to be, and we will need a really good performance.

“I think they have definitely improved their game a lot. They have produced very good performances so far. If you win against Tottenham and you draw against Liverpool at home it’s not a coincidence.

“You see them playing better organised, and we have to be better committed and with a really, really intense game, because otherwise the quality they have can kill you and we must be aware of the best possible team in the moment.”

Final word

Everton head south without two of the players who have played a central role in their sparking start to the season. But if they are to be successful this campaign, they need to learn how to win games when not at full strength. If they do that here, it will probably be their most impressive result of the campaign to date.