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Everton vs Leicester City: Preview | Two in-form sides meet at Goodison Park

Toffees could move into top four - and above Liverpool - with three points

Leicester City v Everton - Premier League Photo by Tony McArdle - Everton FC/Everton FC via Getty Images

Everton take on fellow European hopefuls Leicester City on Wednesday at the start of what could be a season-defining period for the Toffees.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side face five games in 19 days, including a Premier League trip to Manchester United and an FA Cup fifth round tie against Tottenham Hotspur.

Things got off to the perfect start on Sunday with a comfortable dispatching of Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup.

The performance was pretty much faultless and the exact opposite of what we endured in the third round against Rotherham United.

Goals from Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison, and a sparkling display from James Rodriguez, suggests Everton are getting their attacking groove back at just the right time, echoing some of the performances we saw at the start of the season.

With the league so tight games against teams around you take on extra significance, with Everton hoping to move within three points of the Foxes with a win, with two games in hand.

A win would also lift the Toffees ahead of Liverpool, for 24 hours at least.

Do we need any more motivation?

The opposition

Leicester spent most of last season seemingly on course for the Champions League, before a post-lockdown collapse saw them tumble out of the top four and into the Europa League places.

Chastened by that experience, Brendan Rodgers’ side have regrouped and begun to mount another sustained challenge for a place at Europe’s top table, if not more - the Foxes went top of the league after victory over Chelsea last week to raise hopes of another shock title triumph.

Leicester City v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Rui Vieira - Pool/Getty Images

Their fine form makes Everton’s win at the King Power Stadium all the move impressive. Leicester had won their last three matches going into that game and have won six and drawn two of their games in all competitions since, including their last five.

They also boast an impressive away record in the Premier League this season, winning seven of their nine games on the road and losing just once - at Liverpool.

They will, however, have to make do without talismanic striker Jamie Vardy, who is out for a few weeks after a hernia operation.

Previous meeting

Leicester 0-2 Everton December 16, 2020.

Leicester City v Everton - Premier League Photo by Nick Potts - Pool/Getty Images

A fine defensive performance from Everton at the King Power as goals in each half from Richarlison and Mason Holgate secured all three points in December.

Recent form

Everton

Sheffield Wednesday (H - FA Cup) Won 3-0

Wolves (A) Won 2-1

Rotherham (H - FA Cup) Won 2-1

West Ham (H) Lost 1-0

Sheffield United (A) Won 1-0

Leicester

Brentford (A - FA Cup) Won 2-1

Chelsea (H) Won 2-0

Southampton (H) Won 2-0

Stoke (A - FA Cup) Won 4-0

Newcastle (A) Won 2-1

Team news

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Everton - Premier League Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed that Lucas Digne and Alex Iwobi are fit to return after missing the win against Sheffield Wednesday.

However, we will once again have to do without Allan, Fabian Delph, Niels Nkounkou and Jean-Philippe Gbamin, while Abdoulaye Doucoure is suspended.

What they said

Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti: “The games against Leicester and Newcastle will be important for us to understand where we want to be and would like to be in the future.

“We want to fight for the top four, top six. The fact we are going to play at home in our next two games [means that] after Saturday we know where we are going to be in the future.

“I hope it will be a nice future. To take Everton to the Champions League is a fantastic motivation for me. It is a great, great desire.

“This is the target we have for the future. I don’t know how long it will take but I hope soon we can play games in the Champions League.”

Stoke City v Leicester City - FA Cup Third Round Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers: I’ve said it many times, [picking a starting XI] is the most difficult job, especially when you have top-class professionals and I’m just thankful, with all the injuries we’ve had, that they are back and available and getting game time.

“They all know that all of them are required. The same XI won’t play in every single game between now and the end of the season. The players respect the spirit of the team.

“I communicate with the guys that are on the outside so they know exactly where they are and they always know they’re very close to playing. They’ve just got to be ready.

“I’d much rather have it that way, rather than players being injured, but to have the quality we have makes me really happy.”

Final word

The absence of Doucoure and Allan worries me greatly, because without them our midfield has resembled a black hole at times.

But Ancelotti has shown on a number of occasions this season that he is capable of both learning from previous mistakes and finding solutions to problems within the squad.

Whether that is simply placing more faith in the likes of Tom Davies, or doing something funky like moving Ben Godfrey into midfield remains to be seen. But Everton at least go into this game full of confidence and with both attacking and defensive players in form.