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Everton vs Rotherham: FA Cup Third Round Preview | The road to Wembley starts here

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The Toffees begin their FA Cup adventure against Championship opposition at Goodison Park

Everton v Rotherham United - Carabao Cup Second Round Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Getty Images

This year is our year, right?

25 unsuccessful FA Cup campaigns have come and gone since Everton’s last success in 1995 and, frankly, we are all a bit tired of waiting.

They begin their latest quest against Championship side Rotherham on Saturday in the midst of one of the most unpredictable Premier League campaigns in years, with all of the top sides showing signs of vulnerability.

The Toffees have shown they can compete and beat the best sides in the country, so they have nothing to fear going into this year’s tournament.

That said, the Blues have a poor recent record in the FA Cup, losing at this stage in three of the last four years, and not making it past the fourth round since 2016.

They remain as wildly inconsistent as everyone else in the division, demonstrated by their grim 1-0 defeat to West Ham, which ended a run of four straight victories.

Everton v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Peter Byrne - Pool/Getty Images

With Lucas Digne absent, James Rodriguez only just making his way back to fitness and Richarlison out of form, the Toffees’ creativity has taken a serious hit, meaning we struggle against sides who defend in number.

The West Ham game was a prime example. It was a classic David Moyes game - well organised and committed defensively, looking to keep things tight and hope to nick a goal at the other end.

That duly happened with a few minutes remaining. It involved a slice a luck, with Aaron Cresswell’s shot deflecting perfectly into the path of Tomas Soucek, but I don’t think Everton deserved to get anything out of the game given their sub-standard display.

The eight-day rest is at least the chance to rest and get that game out of the system, with another busy period to come over the next month.

If they can reach the start of February, when the schedule starts to calm down, still in the cup and in a decent position in the league, then the foundations will be set for what could be a really memorable season.

The opposition

Rotherham return to Goodison Park just two-and-a-half years after their last meeting with the Toffees, a 3-1 win for Marco Silva’s side in August 2018.

That season ended relegation for the Millers, sending them back into League One. However, they bounced right back to the Championship the following year.

It means Rotherham have had four promotions and two relegations in their last eight seasons, flittering between the Championship and League Two.

Rotherham United v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Another relegation could well be on the cards this campaign with Paul Warne’s side second-bottom of the Championship, though that is a slightly false position given they have only played one game in the last three weeks because of covid and weather cancellations.

They go into Saturday’s game having lost seven of their last nine games. They will be well-rested though as their clash against Cardiff last weekend postponed because of snow.

Previous meeting

Everton 3-1 Rotherham - Carabao Cup second round, August 29 2018

Everton v Rotherham United - Carabao Cup Second Round Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

As mentioned, Everton’s last meeting with Rotherham was a Carabao cup second round clash less than three years ago. Two goals from Dominic Calvert-Lewin and another from Gyfli Sigurdsson were enough to ease the Toffees through.

Recent form

Everton

West Ham (H) Lost 1-0

Sheffield United (A) Won 1-0

Manchester United (H - Carabao Cup) Lost 1-0

Arsenal (H) Won 1-0

Leicester (A) Won 2-0

Rotherham

Barnsley (H) Lost 2-1

Blackburn (A) Lost 2-1

Bristol City (H) Won 2-1

Watford (A) Lost 2-0

Coventry (A) Lost 3-1

Team news

Everton Training Session Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Lucas Digne is set to make a shock early return after making a quicker than expected recovery from ankle surgery.

Carlo Ancelotti is expected to make changes in order to give squad players opportunities and afford regulars some much-needed rest.

Richarlison, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Jordan Pickford are among those definitely given the weekend off.

Allan, Jonjoe Kenny and Fabian Delph are still injured, but James Rodriguez could feature after training all week.

What they said

Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti: “The defeat against West Ham is gone. We have talked about this, and now we are focused on this game. It’s an important competition. We know how important the FA Cup is in England. We want to start this competition well.

“They are a strong, tough team. I am sure it will be a physical game. They have problems in the Championship, but I know that the FA Cup is a different story. There are strange results that nobody expects all the time, so we have to pay attention to this.”

Rotherham United v Sheffield Wednesday - Sky Bet Championship - AESSEAL New York Stadium Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images

Rotherham manager Paul Warne: “Any Premier League team is pretty phenomenal, we need a little bit of lady luck and hope we perform to our best to get a result, but that’s the fun of the cup really. We will go into the game with the same knowledge we have of every opponent, but they could play anyway and any team, as could we.

“When we played them two seasons ago, I thought we played well and took the game to them a little bit. Without crowds it is a little bit less intimidating as well. You want the lads to go out there, give a good account of themselves and enjoy it. I want to chew Carlo Ancelotti’s ear off about his book ‘quiet leadership’, which I thoroughly enjoyed and think is the best book in sport.”

Final word

Everton will be overwhelming favourites, with good reason, but should be wary given the FA Cup’s reputation for upsets. A professional job is needed to just get the job done, hopefully with no injuries.