clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Everton vs Leeds: Match Preview | This is big

An relegation six-pointer at Goodison Park on Saturday

Leeds United v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

We may only be in February but Everton’s meeting with Leeds on Saturday already feels like a critical game in the battle against relegation.

The Whites are one point and once place above the 18th-placed Toffees going into the game, meaning defeat at Goodison Park would leave Sean Dyche’s side cut adrift inside the relegation zone.

Win, however, and would have the psychological boost of jumping out of the bottom three.

Monday’s Merseyside derby defeat was a worrying return to type for these Everton players after the intensity of their performance against Arsenal.

Liverpool FC v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

In mitigation you can point towards some bad luck, with James Tarkowski hitting the post seconds before Liverpool’s opening goal. Things could have been different if they had a lead to protect.

That said, their response to going a goal down was poor and they were well beaten in the end.

Losing at Anfield though is also no real measure as to how well or badly Everton are playing, because they do so pretty much every year.

Three points from Arsenal and Liverpool is three more than most people were expecting, but there now lies ahead a critical run of games that will go a long way to deciding their fate.

After the Leeds game Aston Villa head to Goodison the following week before a trip to Arsenal and another relegation rival in Nottingham Forest before a home match with Brentford.

Two wins from those five probably looks like a minimum target, though for a team that has won just four league games in 22 so far even that looks a tough ask.

The opposition

Manchester United v Leeds United - Premier League Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Leeds have endured a similarly rocky season, albeit without the boardroom turbulence, and like Everton decided to sack their manager Jesse Marsch at the start of the month.

Giving Marsch just one game in February after spending nearly £50m on new signings in January is also a very Everton thing to do. As is missing out on their top managerial targets, meaning caretaker boss Michael Skubala will take charge of a third match.

His first two matches were both against an in-form Manchester United, where they took a credible point from Old Trafford before slipping to a 2-0 defeat at home.

That does mean though that they are without a win since the start of November, a run of nine games.

Everton have been very accommodating opponents for teams or players on barren runs this season. Now would be a great time to cut out that annoying habit.

Previous meeting

Leeds 1-1 Everton, 30 August 2023

Leeds United v Everton - Premier League - Elland Road Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images

The two sides played out a fiery 1-1 draw in the previous meeting at Elland Road back in August. Anthony Gordon gave the Toffees a first-half lead before Luis Sinisterra levelled early in the second half to earn Leeds a point.

Team news

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

Everton will again be without Dominic Calvert-Lewin after the striker picked up a hamstring injury in the win over Arsenal.

Nathan Patterson and James Garner are continuing their comebacks from injury by playing for the U21s on Friday night but are not quite ready for a senior return.

Andros Townsend is also still sidelined as he continues his recovery from that serious knee injury.

What they said

Liverpool FC v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images

Everton boss Sean Dyche: “Every game in the Premier League is a must-win game. Every win, no matter how it comes, is important.

“My focus for the next game is the same, regardless of who it’s against. We want to keep performing at a consistent level. Something I’ve been obsessed with for many years is raising the minimum.

“How can we raise the minimum levels? How can we stop off-days and collective down-days?

“Home games will be important because of the way Goodison feels. I saw it against Arsenal. That’s an incredible energy for the players to play with.

“We have to take some of that feeling and ingrain it within the group so when we go away, we have that feeling of a home game, and that same mentality.

“The atmosphere at home is massively important and it was a big thing against Arsenal, but now we need it in every game. I’m sure the Evertonians will be there.”

Leeds United v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Leeds caretaker boss Michael Skubala: “It’s an opportunity for us to try and get another three points and that’s all I’m focused on.

“I’m focused on Everton and then if we do well I’m focused on the next game.

“There are still a lot of games to go, I think we need to pick up points, so they are important games as always.

“I do think there are enough games to pick up points, but the next two are huge games and every game in the Premier League is a huge game.

“The players are excited to go to Goodison Park and try to get three points.”

Final word

Last season’s game against Leeds was one of Everton’s best performances and results of the campaign. I don’t care for a repeat performance, but a repeat result is vital.