Carlo Ancelotti deviated from the 4-3-3 set up for the first time last week and was rewarded with a good attacking first half performance.
However, the Blues’ manager will be forced into at least one change having been given a bad piece of injury news this week.
Sadly, Lucas Digne – who has been outstanding this season and provided two assists against Fulham – picked up an ankle ligament injury which will see him ruled out until January at the earliest.
This will undoubtedly be a huge loss for Everton at the most action-packed time of year, but it could provide a big opportunity for the promising Niels Nkounkou.
There’s no other new injury concerns, though. Seamus Coleman will miss this one again due to his recurring hamstring problem, while Jean-Philippe Gbamin is now just a few weeks from returning after his massive lay-off.
Tactics and Formation
The Blues lined up different last week, switching to a back three as they lined up in an interesting 3-4-3/3-5-2 set-up.
Given the strength of Alex Iwobi’s performance at right-wing back last week – plus Nkounkou’s lack of experience – it’s likely that Ancelotti will stick with a back three again in order to provide them both with some extra defensive cover.
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Jordan Pickford – 8/10
Didn’t put a foot wrong last week, so should start again unless Ancelotti wants to begin rotating keepers.
Ben Godfrey – 7/10
Played at right centre-back last week and did well enough, aside from giving away a penalty. It’s basically a “pick two of three” from Yerry Mina, Godfrey and Mason Holgate to join Michael Keane in defence, but I’d wager it will be the two “ball-playing” defenders either side of Keane this week with Mina struggling for form.
Michael Keane – 9/10
Mason Holgate - 7/10
Was rushed back against Manchester United, but one would hope he’s given another chance here to enable the Blues to be more comfortable on the ball as they build out from the back.
Alex Iwobi – 9/10
Excelled at right wing-back last week, but Ancelotti mentioned he could also play on the left. In which case we might see Iwobi play ahead of Nkounkou and Jonjoe Kenny come in on the right.
Niels Nkounkou – 6/10
The natural replacement for Lucas Digne, but Ancelotti may opt for more experience. The alternatives could see Iwobi on the left and Kenny on the right, or even Fabian Delph on the left.
Allan – 10/10
Abdoulaye Doucoure – 9/10
James Rodriguez – 10/10
Thankfully returning to full fitness from a testing testicle injury.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin – 10/10
Tom Davies – Did well when he came on last week and might be pushing for a start if the Blues revert back to a midfield three.
Andre Gomes - Would prefer to see another attacking option (Gordon, ahem), but Ancelotti seems persistent with having three centre-mids on the bench for some bizarre reason.