Carlo Ancelotti should overlook a potential recall for James Rodriguez against Manchester United on Saturday as the midfielder could hold Everton back at Old Trafford.
Rodriguez fell to the bench following a 2-0 defeat at home to Newcastle United last weekend and played no part as the Toffees beat Leeds United 2-1 on Wednesday night.
It was the first occasion since the 29-year-old joined Everton from Real Madrid last summer that he failed to feature in a Premier League game outside of an injury, having started 13 of his 14 top-flight outings in royal blue.
Everton beat Leeds through goals from midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson and top-scorer Dominic Calvert-Lewin, having dominated for large periods of the first half before digging in deep to see out the result after Raphinha pulled one back for the Whites early in the second period.
Sigurdsson was particularly effective during the first 45 minutes with his link-up play with Calvert-Lewin, Alex Iwobi and Richarlison impressive, while his drive into the box returned a gift to break the deadlock with the easiest of finishes.
Yet even after a somewhat slack showing in the second half from the Iceland international, Rodriguez watched on as Michael Keane, Joshua King and Tom Davies were introduced from the bench.
Everton ended the midweek affair with 10 shots registered from seven key passes, of which Abdoulaye Doucoure offered the most from the deep-lying box-to-box midfield role with two. Sigurdsson, Iwobi, Andre Gomes plus defenders Lucas Digne and Ben Godfrey provided the rest, per WhoScored.
Rodriguez may be considered for an immediate recall to inject an added level of creativity into the Everton starting line-up against Manchester United on Saturday, with no member of Ancelotti’s squad offering more key passes than the Colombian (28) in the Premier League this term.
Yet calling on the 29-year-old could see Ancelotti actually hold Everton back at Old Trafford, as Rodriguez endured one of his worst performances in royal blue when the two sides met back in November and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side emerged 3-1 victors at Goodison Park.
Only against Newcastle on January 30 and against West Ham United on New Year’s Day has he achieved a lower WhoScored match rating in a Premier League fixture than he did against the Red Devils, having earned a 6.31 compared to the 5.96 achieved against both the Toon and Irons.
The £31.5m-rated maestro further achieved his fourth-worst pass success rating (79.5%) and played his sixth-least passes (44) in a single game against Manchester United, while failing to attempt a single shot or key pass for one of only three occasions in each regard.
Ancelotti would not be able to guarantee Rodriguez avoiding a repeat performance this weekend, as Everton are facing a Red Devils side brimming with confidence after a 9-0 demolition of Southampton and are firing on all cylinders.
The Toffees will need to be alert defensively and have no passengers on board, and Rodriguez’s performance in the reverse fixture make for underwhelming reading. And, given that Ancelotti’s men picked up the win last time out, there is surely no reason for the Everton boss to make such a gamble in a big game.