Supporters knew that late February and March were going to be tough times for Everton, but after just one point in the opening two matches of this testing period, there’s a little added pressure as the Toffees head to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea this Sunday.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side is just about as healthy as it’s going to be the rest of this season — only Seamus Coleman looks to be out as a short-term injury. That means more difficult decisions for the manager, especially in midfield where there are several options, but none particularly impressing at the moment.
Can he find a combination that earns three away points?
Tactics and Formation
The good news for Everton is that Chelsea will likely be missing its entire preferred midfield trio, with Jorginho suspended and Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante out injured.
Regular starters Christian Pulisic and Tammy Abraham are out as well, not to mention Andreas Christensen, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, and Willian. Somehow Frank Lampard’s side has managed to make Everton’s injury troubles earlier this season look minuscule.
Chelsea ended its 2-0 victory over Liverpool in the FA Cup on Tuesday with a midfield three of Ross Barkley (lol), Mason Mount, and 18-year-old Billy Gilmour. I expect fully that Ancelotti will lean heavily on high pressure from his preferred 4-4-2 to try to force mistakes from those players and a Chelsea center-back pairing that has been suspect at times this season.
The players who he’ll select to do that though...that’s a less clear.
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Jordan Pickford - 10/10
Lucas Digne - 9/10
Full credit to Leighton Baines for two solid performances in Digne’s absence. His strong play likely bought him another one-year contract with the club, if he’s so inclined to return next season.
But there’s still no doubt that Digne is the preferred option at left-back, and he’s back to full health.
Michael Keane - 6/10
Mason Holgate - 10/10
The man with the new contract surely retains his spot in the Everton defense, with Keane and Yerry Mina once again dueling for the other spot in the lineup. Keane’s performance against Manchester United was solid, so he gets the slight edge here.
Djibril Sidibe - 10/10
Seamus Coleman is injured, so no real discussion to be had at right-back.
Andre Gomes - 9/10
Gomes again looked fully fit last week, and has given us no reason to suspect he won’t play a major role again this week.
Tom Davies - 7/10
If Ancelotti wants to press, Davies is his man in the center of midfield. His shortcomings in terms of distribution have been well-documented, but the man can cover a lot of ground.
Theo Walcott - 9/10
Gylfi Sigurdsson - 8/10
Why is Gylfi Sigurdsson playing on the left side of midfield these days, you ask? Well, I honestly don’t really know.
Sigurdsson has been fine in the position — not great, not bad. He was right in the middle of what should have been Everton’s game-winning goal against Manchester United last week. But both Bernard and Alex Iwobi seem better fits for that left midfield / No. 10 hybrid position.
That said, I don’t think we saw anything last week that will make Ancelotti want to swap the Icelander out.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin - 10/10
Richarlison - 10/10
It’s one point out of the last available six for Everton right now — but you don’t have to squint very hard to see a world where the Toffees took all six points from their last two matches and find themselves in a very different position.
This week, Ancelotti will look to not only get another positive performance, but this time the result to go along with it.