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Everton vs Leeds - Match Preview | A must-win game for relegation-haunted Toffees

This game is huge, make no mistake

Leeds United v Everton - Premier League Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

There’s plenty of things I miss about the 1990s, but nervously checking the scores of relegation rivals because Everton are so useless is not one of them.

Sadly, that is the reality I am faced with thanks to a horrific run of form that has sucked the Toffees right into the dogfight at the bottom of the table.

Those who point out we are only just over halfway through the season and that we should not panic too much have a point. But at the same time Everton have the worst record in the division from the last 15 games, so it is hard to see where the next point is coming from let alone a string of wins needed to lift themselves away from danger. And the remaining 18 games can be distilled down to 10-12 where Everton have a realistic chance of getting something, and from those they need at least six wins.

Something needs to change and fast.

Circumstances did conspire against them against Newcastle on Tuesday, with key duo Yerry Mina and Demarai Gray both limping off injured. But the manner of their limp surrender after half-time suggests this squad lacks the stomach for a relegation fight, which is a real concern.

Newcastle United v Everton - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

It makes this Saturday’s game absolutely huge. There’s no disguising it, the visit of Leeds is your archetypal relegation six-pointer that Everton cannot afford to lose.

The main positive is of course the presence of Frank Lampard in the dugout, who has unified the club after a divisive few months. Indeed much of the talk among fans this week on social media has been about unity and getting behind the team.

Last Saturday’s win over Brentford was a reminder of what Everton and Goodison is capable of when things click. The trick is now to carry that over into the league.

After witnessing their meek display at St James’ Park Lampard suggested that home games will be vital in hauling the Toffees over the line.

To that end everyone at Goodison – be it on the pitch or in the stands – has a crucial role to play if we are to get out of this mess.

This is time for the fans to rediscover the Goodison roar before it is too late.

The opposition

FBL-ENG-PR-ASTON VILLA-LEEDS Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

Leeds go into Saturday’s game four points above the Blues having played a game more after their breathless midweek 3-3 draw at Aston Villa.

It was a game that typified their all or nothing approach under Marcelo Bielsa; mesmerising going forward but also vulnerable at the back.

It is never dull.

Injuries have hampered their progress this season, with the loss of last season’s top-scorer Patrick Banford a significant blow. But in Raphinha they have a player of genuine star quality and one who loves scoring against Everton. The Brazilian has notched in all three appearances against the Toffees, including the winner in a 1-0 victory at Goodison last season.

After the majority of last year played out in empty stadiums this will be the first time Everton have hosted Leeds in front of a crowd since 2003, when Steve Watson scored a hat-trick in a 4-0 win for the Toffees.

What we would give for something similar on Saturday.

Previous meeting

Leeds 2-2 Everton, August 21, 2021

Leeds United v Everton - Premier League Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

A capacity crowd packed into Elland Road to witness a Premier League game for the first time since 2004 when the sides last met in August. Everton twice led through Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Demarai Gray, but goals from Mateusz Klich and Raphinha earned the Whites a point.

Team news

Newcastle United v Everton - Premier League Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images

Everton have been dealt a further blow with the news that Yerry Mina will be out for between 8-10 weeks with a quad injury suffered at Newcastle.

Vitaly Mykolenko is also sidelined through illness so the Toffees will again be without a recognised senior left-back, with Ben Godfrey out until the end of March with a hamstring problem.

Fabian Delph, Tom Davies and Abdoulaye Doucoure are also out until the middle of next month at the earliest.

The good news is that Dominic Calvert-Lewin is fit, while Dele Alli and Donny van de Beek are in contention after coming off the bench at Newcastle.

What they said

Everton manager Frank Lampard: “The mood’s really good. It wouldn’t have been in the evening after Newcastle, it’s something you need to overcome. I couldn’t ask for more from the players in terms of training, listening, how they’re smiling.

“To think that everything would be roses and winning games...football doesn’t work like that.

“We want to win the game. I’ve come here now with a really good performance in the cup, one we weren’t so happy with in the week.

“I certainly don’t want to put everything on this game.”

“They’re a relatively unique team in their style. We have to understand that but also believe in their own strengths. The lads will be prepared for what Leeds can bring.

“What I see at face value in terms of talent, I’ve got a belief in. The attitude has been spot on, I see players who want to dig in and improve. I believe in us.”

Leeds United v Newcastle United - Premier League Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa: “Every game and every point picked up has repercussions whether that is at the bottom or middle of the table.

“We’re thinking of this game, of course there are a series of games that come after which are very difficult but we are fundamentally focusing on this game.

“It’s very difficult to predict what is going to happen in a team or in a game of football. It depends on things that are only verified on the pitch.

“You can’t manage in the characteristic of the game without seeing how each team plans to play the game.

“I can’t give an opinion on the development of the team [under Frank Lampard] but the longer they spend with their new manager, the better the ideas will be implemented.

“Seasons like the ones we are going through where there is constant adversity, it’s important to face it with a strong mental fortitude.”

Final word

There’s not much I can see other than this game is massive. If social media is anything to go by the supporters travelling to Goodison are ready to do their bit.

It’s the players I worry about….