Everton are back in action on Thursday when Aston Villa, four points adrift of safety, visit Goodison Park in the third-last game of the season.
The Blues have some misdemeanours to rectify after three dreadful performances last week, rounded off with Sunday’s 3-0 thumping at Wolves which virtually ended any faint Europa League hopes.
With that in mind, who should Carlo Ancelotti name in his starting XI in what could be seen as the first of three dead rubbers for Everton?
Tactics and Formation
Aston Villa typically play in a 4-3-3 formation, seeking creativity mostly from their star player, Jack Grealish, often from the left-wing.
Whoever faces Grealish down that flank will no doubt be in for a stern examination, but perhaps Everton can take heart from the fact that Villa really need to win this. That, in turn, could leave them more exposed in the back, and only Norwich have conceded more than Villa’s 65 in the Premier League this term.
Everton started the 1-1 draw with Southampton in Ancelotti’s usual 4-4-2 formation, before changing to a more effective 3-5-2 after a dismal first half. That same setup came badly unstuck against Wolves, though, so it will be interesting to see what he plumps for here.
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Joao Virginia - 5/10
A more outlandish choice, but Jordan Pickford has never established a strong run of form all season and plummeted to his nadir at Wolves.
Pickford is Everton’s best goalkeeper, but no player should ever be undroppable, regardless of the quality (or lack thereof) of alternatives. He simply isn’t playing well enough to deserve to keep his place.
We will probably learn precious little about Everton’s goalkeeping options by sticking with Pickford for these last three games. Nor will we by instead playing Maarten Stekelenburg, who is 37 and leaving.
Virginia might not be good enough - a cancelled loan spell at Championship side Reading isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement - but if ever there’s a time to give him a chance, it might be now, when there’s little to play for and when Pickford is floundering so badly.
Lucas Digne - 9/10
Everton’s best player in the last two games, if admittedly a dreadfully low bar. Only reason he might not play is because he’s started every game since the Premier League’s return, so could perhaps do with a break and Leighton Baines remains a more-than-able deputy.
Mason Holgate - 9/10
Might not be at his sharpest having just returned from injury, but Holgate is Everton’s best centre-back and besides, only he, Michael Keane or Jarrad Branthwaite are viable options for the two centre-half spots given Yerry Mina’s injury.
Michael Keane - 9/10
Basically a given it will be him and Holgate at the back.
Seamus Coleman - 9/10
Should start after his rallying cry following the capitulation at Wolves. Must now set the tone for a response on the pitch.
Anthony Gordon - 9/10
Another star player of Everton’s since football’s hiatus was lifted and should start every game for the rest of the season.
Beni Baningime - 7/10
Everton need a defensive-minded midfielder in midfield. Baningime is the only one they have who is fit. He, like Virginia, might not be the long-term answer, but he doesn’t have to be. Just for 90 minutes here.
Tom Davies - 8/10
Has been terrible for the most part since the restart, but with Gylfi Sigurdsson even more exasperating and unable to run, Davies is the ‘less worse’ option.
Would not start André Gomes again this season to allow him more time to rest after a hectic schedule so soon after returning from such a serious injury, either.
Richarlison - 10/10
He will start, it’s just a case of where. Would push him out wide to give Moise Kean a rare start. See below for reasoning.
Moise Kean - 7/10
Has shown nothing in substitute appearances since the restart, but like with Virginia and Baningime, if ever there’s a time to give him a start, it’s now.
The last time he started for Everton, he scored and had his best game in royal blue. Just something to think about.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin - 9/10
Another who could probably do with a break but whose work rate alone is making him essential in this side.
Needs a goal, though, having not netted since the restart, but should fancy his chances against a defence as porous as Villa’s, who will likely leave gaps in behind as they push for a vital win.
Ellis Simms - if Everton are to play Richarlison wide and Kean and Calvert-Lewin up top together, they’ll probably need another striker on the bench for cover. Again, at this stage of the season, what can be lost by at least giving Simms a call-up to the bench?
Obviously, it’s unlikely that Ancelotti will go for that exact team against Villa, as experimental as it perhaps is. But it would make for a refreshing change after too many games of an absent midfield and too many mishaps between the sticks.