Everton continue their route to Wembley with a Carabao Cup third round tie at Fleetwood Town on Wednesday.
The Blues will want to maintain their perfect start to the 2020-21 campaign, having emerged victorious in all three of their competitive matches so far; Fleetwood, meanwhile, have won and lost one game each in League One.
This is the first time these two sides’ paths have crossed, with Fleetwood manager Joey Barton aiming to knock his boyhood club out of the EFL Cup.
RBM: Firstly, Joey Barton is now in his third season as Fleetwood boss having led them to the play-offs last season. He obviously carried a certain reputation as a player; what has he been like as a manager?
Ben: Joey is a character, but he’s a manager that I love and he makes you believe. He’s obsessed with the game and he really loves his job and that translates on a match day.
He’s got an ethos that you want to be proud of. He’s had his faults, but he will learn and get better in the long run. I feel he will go on and manage in the Premier League.
RBM: Fleetwood almost recorded a second successive league win on Saturday, but conceded two injury-time goals at Peterborough to lose 2-1. What have you made of their start to the season?
Ben: It’s hard to say two games in, but it’s always nice to get off to the perfect start by winning, especially at home [against Burton Albion]. However, losing like that was gutting, but we will make sure we come back stronger.
RBM: Fleetwood loaned two of Everton’s youngsters in the second half of last season in Lewis Gibson and Callum Connolly. Big things are expected of Gibson in particular - what did you make of both of them?
Ben: I loved Gibson; very good with his feet, can play out from the back, reads the game so well and as a left-footer, added balance to our back line.
Connolly was versatile and put his body on the line; he was energetic and worked very hard, and added a couple of much-needed goals as well. I’d take both of them back in an instant.
RBM: Fleetwood came so close to reaching the Championship for the first time in their history last season. Did they overachieve, or is promotion the aim again this year?
Ben: I feel we slightly overachieved, but again we had a great team and a great manager. We now need to show that we are a great team again and back it up this season.
RBM: This is also the first time Fleetwood have made it as far as the third round in the EFL Cup. Given some people see the competition as unimportant, how significant to you is Wednesday’s game?
Ben: It’s another game for us; playing against Premier League opponents is always nice, but we go in treating every game as important.
We will hopefully go out to try and win the game, especially with it being on Sky; we didn’t give the best account of ourselves last time we were on Sky in the play-offs.
RBM: How do you expect Fleetwood to set up on Wednesday?
Ben: 4-3-3; hungry and wanting to win the game. Two defensive midfielders in Paul Coutts and Glenn Whelan, and Callum Camps in an attacking midfield role.
RBM: Which areas of the pitch should Everton look to exploit?
Ben: I think down the left-hand side. Our right-back [Wes Burns] is currently out of position; he is normally a winger. He looks okay at full-back but has been a tad shaky at times.
RBM: Which of Fleetwood’s players do you think could cause Everton the most problems?
Ben: I think our front three [Josh Morris, Mark Duffy, Ched Evans] is very dangerous and they all know how to score goals. I feel we are better than Salford, and we are at home, so if we can get after your back four, we could get a little bit of joy.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Wednesday’s game?
Ben: 2-1 Everton.
Our thanks to Ben for his time.