Coming off a dispiriting setback at the weekend, in which Everton were beaten handily by Leicester, Frank Lampard’s charges are handed the chance to quickly rid themselves of that memory, with an EFL Cup tie versus Bournemouth on Tuesday night. The match will be the first of two battles with the Cherries within less than four day, as the south coast side will be the Merseysiders’ final league game before the break for the bizarrely-timed World Cup in Qatar later this month.
Both matches will take place at the tiny Dean Court stadium, a venue the Toffees have failed to win at in their last four attempts.
It is highly unusual that a team plays the same opponent in consecutive matches and for the Blues - where the league is obviously a priority, considering the calamities of last season - the cup game offers an opportunity for Lampard to pick up some pointers that he can take into the more important weekend tie.
As to where the league cup rates in terms of priorities, it figures to be pretty low for both teams. Bournemouth will be focusing on Premier League survival and Everton, in truth aren’t too dissimilar. Additionally, neither Lampard or Cherries interim boss Gary O’Neil will want to tip their hands prior to Saturday’s big game Consequently, there’s likely to be a lot of rotation, with lots of fringe players and maybe some youngsters given a chance to impress.
For the visitors, Lampard will no doubt want to progress in all cup competitions as far as possible, so we may see something somewhat resembling the side he put out to face Fleetwood Town in the previous round; weakened, but far from a pushover. Bournemouth, sitting in 17th place in the league, may field a more seriously understrength team.
I have a sneaking suspicion that the Toffees may actually turn up for this away match. Frank will be far from pleased with recent results and performances which have seen his charges drop to 16th place, just a point ahead of tonight’s opposition. Moreover, he’d like to see a good cup run, being the winner he was as a trophy-laden player. Some that are currently on the margins the Blues squad, such as Tom Davies, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Mason Holgate and Ruben Vinagre will surely be desperate to impress, as will the likes of Neal Maupay and James Garner, who will likely start tonight.
Everton have greater squad strength than Bournemouth and this game will be a test of that depth. I’m predicting a 2-1 victory for the visitors on the south coast.