Everton will look to make in four wins from four in all competitions this season when they take on League One side Fleetwood in round three of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday.
The congested nature of this season’s competition means the fourth round draw has already been made, with West Ham or Hull awaiting the winners, meaning the Toffees have a wonderful chance to reach the quarter-finals.
They overcame a shaky start to blow West Brom away on Saturday, with James Rodriguez showing his class with a masterful performance that included his first Toffees goal and Dominic Calvert-Lewin doing his England chances no harm with a hat-trick.
Echo Falls all-around!
Though it was only for 24 hours (thanks Burnley), Everton topped the table and gave the supporters some much needed belief and excitement during these difficult times.
The Toffees look to have a side that can compete with anyone in the league, raising hopes of a European challenge and the chance to reach the latter stages (and hopefully win) one of the cups.
There is a long way to go of course and the last 25 years serve as a warning not to get carried away (even though we always do). Another professional job is needed on Wednesday in order to see off an opposition who will be determined to cause an upset.
That is likely to signal the return of more first-team players for the next round. And from there, who knows?
For the second time this season Everton take on a side for the first time in a competitive match.
Like last opponents Salford City, Fleetwood Town spent the majority of their history in the lower leagues before their takeover by businessman Andy Pilley in 2002.
Thanks to his investment, the Lancashire side rose up the divisions, with six promotions in 10 years lifting them from the North West Counties League Premier Division to League One.
They finished sixth in League One last season on a points-per-game basis to qualify for the play-offs for the first time, where they were beaten by eventual winners Wycombe in the semi-finals.
They are managed by none other than boyhood Evertonian Joey Barton. The controversial former Manchester City and Newcastle midfielder was appointed in the summer of 2018, guiding them to an 11th place finish in his first season in charge.
They began this campaign with four straight wins in all competitions, including victories over Wigan and Port Vale to reach this stage of the Carabao Cup, though they slipped to defeat against Peterborough in League One on Saturday.
Carlo Ancelotti is once again expected to rotate his squad, so a similar line-up to the one that took on Salford is likely.
That would like include starts for Anthony Gordon and Niels Nkounkou, who showed signs of developing a decent partnership down the Everton left against Salford.
The only issue is in defence, where Yerry Mina and Michael Keane are the only fit senior centre-backs. Lucas Digne filled-in against Salford after Jarrad Branthwaite limped off and could start there given Nkounkou’s performance at left-bacl last week.
Lewis Gibson, who spent last season out on loan at Fleetwood, is reportedly closing in on a loan to Championship side Reading so is not likely to play.
Fabian Delph could also feature for the first time since March as he continues his comeback from injury.
What They Said
Fleetwood head coach Joey Barton: “The league for us will always be the priority, but to give a great account of ourselves live on TV against one of the best coaches in the world, and an Everton side that are on the up, then it will be an exciting occasion.
“Even if Everton rotate, you are playing against household names, international footballers, and Premier League players, I see it as a challenge and look forward to the occasion. We have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.
“When we cross the white line, we’ve got to do our town and club proud. We’ll have a couple of plans to try and disrupt them, but we want to beat Everton. We aren’t here to just take part; we’ll know that we have to be excellent.”
Like last week, Everton need to be professional as they have enough quality on paper to see off lower league opposition but will be stung if they don’t take it seriously.
Fleetwood represent a significant upgrade on Salford and you can be sure Barton will have them fired up. The Fishermen spanked David Unsworth’s Under-21s last season 4-0 in the Football League Trophy and you know the Blues will be looking to exact some measure of revenge for that.
The relatively kind draw in the next round places further importance on getting a result, in a competition Everton really should be targeting this season.