Carlo Ancelotti has dropped a pre-FA Cup hint that could see Everton deliver Tottenham Hotspur a rare challenge when the two sides meet on Wednesday.
The Toffees beat Spurs when the clubs last faced one another in the Premier League with the Merseyside outfit running out 1-0 victors in North London last September, ending a 15-game winless run in the fixture.
Everton had not beaten Tottenham in any competition since December 2012 before this season’s win, and are now preparing to face the Lilywhites in the FA Cup for the first time since 1995 when the Blues won 4-1 to seal a place in the Final.
Tonight’s match will see Everton and Tottenham contest for a place in the Quarter-Final of this year’s edition, with Ancelotti also looking to maintain his unbeaten record in the fifth round of the FA Cup.
To do so, the Italian has hinted he may stick with the new formation he deployed at Old Trafford on Saturday, when Everton came from behind twice to hold Manchester United to a draw.
“Maybe it was difficult to adjust again to Goodison being empty but we could do better at this – and I am really pleased with how my players adapt to many things,” Ancelotti wrote in his programme notes ahead of tonight’s FA Cup tie with Tottenham.
“They can move to different positions and, like at Manchester United on Saturday, go into a new system. We had a diamond in midfield to give us one more body in an area where United are really strong.
“The plan worked, in my opinion, and even at half-time when we were 2-0 down, I was happy with the tactical aspect. But our passing in the first half was too safe. It can happen against a team that is strong on the counter-attacks and United are one of the best in the world at this.”
Ancelotti fielded Everton in a 4-3-1-2 system for the first time since his appointment in December 2019, with Richarlison joining Dominic Calvert-Lewin in attack but tasked with playing wider to afford James Rodriguez space to operate in a free role in front of Andre Gomes, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Tom Davies.
The Toffees boss noting that he felt the diamond system was working at Manchester United even when trailing would suggest he is considering utilising the formation against Tottenham in the FA Cup, which could help nullify the threat of Tanguy Ndombele like he sought to with Bruno Fernandes.
Only Harry Kane (20) and Son Heung-Min (17) have scored more often for Spurs than Ndombele (6) across all competitions this season, while Jose Mourinho has also seen the 24-year-old Frenchman provide three assists yet lauds him for his “magnificent” general play.
Everton lining up in a 4-3-1-2 on Wednesday night will also present Tottenham with a challenge they are not accustomed to facing, having yet played against a side using the formation in any of their 37 competitive matches played this season.
The closest Mourinho’s men have come is in their fixtures against sides using a 3-4-1-2 or 3-4-2-1, which coincidently returned two defeats in their last three games with Brighton and Chelsea both running out 1-0 victors over the last two weeks.
If Ancelotti is to see Tottenham’s run of results stretch to three defeats in four and record a rare Everton win over the north London side, sticking with the 4-3-1-2 used at Manchester United may be the way to go.