Everton have won just one of their last 12 Premier League matches and next up is a trip to bottom side Norwich, who’ve won just twice this season.
In most circumstances, you’d say another defeat for the manager here would/could/should lead to him losing his job. But after rattling through so many managers in recent years, Farhad Moshiri seems intent – rightly or wrongly – to back Benitez to the hilt. Even if that means sacking anyone else he can blame instead.
But Everton will be almost unrecognisable when they head to Carrow Road, with three new players among the ranks as well as a swathe of returning players. This is a Benitez team now. This could be the true beginning of Rafa’s reign. Or the beginning of the end.
So how will the Blues line up here?
Great news on the injury front. Richarlison, Yerry Mina, Jarrad Branthwaite and Fabian Delph have all been back in training this week. They might not all be ready to start, but this will be a bulging Everton matchday squad that also now contains Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Andros Townsend.
The only injured player now is Tom Davies who had surgery on a hamstring issue this week.
Vitaliy Mykolenko, Nathan Patterson and Anwar El Ghazi are all available to make their Premier League debuts for the Blues, but it seems likely that only the former will get the nod to start.
Tactics and Formation
Everton have bizarrely opted to go with a back five for the last three matches, with far from convincing performances and results. This is another game you’d expect the Blues to switch it up to a more attacking 4-2-3-1 approach, but Benitez may persist with this failing system for some unclear reason.
The Blues are actually stacked with options this week, so will go from being able to barely name a full bench to leaving around five senior players out of the squad entirely. My guess would be that injury-prone players like Yerry Mina and Fabian Delph will be left out in order to rebuild their fitness more cautiously.
Richarlison may also be back in training, but hopefully he’s not rushed back into the side and should start from the bench. Just in case.
Starters (likelihood of starting rated out of 10)
Jordan Pickford – 10/10
Seamus Coleman – 7/10
Jonjoe Kenny has started the last two games for Everton and fared reasonably well as he picked up two assists in the process. If the Blues switch back to a 4-2-3-1 though, he may find himself out of the squad altogether with Coleman likely to hold on to his place with Patterson his chosen heir.
Vitaliy Mykolenko – 9/10
Ben Godfrey – 9/10
Michael Keane – 9/10
Allan - 9/10
Abdoulaye Doucoure – 10/10
Andre Gomes – 7/10
May start in an advanced midfield role.
Anthony Gordon – 6/10
Could well make way for the returning Andros Townsend or Richarlison, but deserves another run-out really.
Demarai Gray – 8/10
Dominic Calvert-Lewin – 8/10
Anwar El Ghazi