Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti has admitted the Premier League leaders are facing a selection dilemma in midfield ahead of facing Liverpool in Saturday’s Merseyside Derby.
The Toffees welcome their inner-city rivals to Goodison Park this weekend looking to claim a fifth top-flight win in succession, having opened the campaign as the sole side to win their first four fixtures.
Jurgen Klopp’s visiting side will be eager to avenge a 7-2 drubbing at the hands of Aston Villa prior to the international break, having slipped outside of the top four places with a defeat that sees the reigning title-holders boast the league’s second-worst defensive record.
Everton have not beaten Liverpool in precisely 10 years, having last claimed a win over their Stanley Park neighbours since October 17 2010 when goals from Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta ensured the three points stayed with David Moyes’ side at Goodison Park.
Ancelotti has confirmed, via quotes by the Liverpool Echo, that he will have a near-fully fit squad to call on in his bid to end the Blues’ decade of misery. So, with that in mind, here’s a predicted Everton XI we could see this weekend…
After fears Yerry Mina had aggravated a previous hamstring injury in training whilst on international duty with Colombia this week, Ancelotti has confirmed the centre-half has returned to Finch Farm and undergone positive assessments showing the 26-year-old to be in good health.
“No news,” Ancelotti stated when asked on injuries ahead of facing Liverpool. “All the players are available. It’s true that they travelled, they played, but they came back in good condition and are all available for tomorrow.”
The Toffees boss’ comments also eased concerns Lucas Digne and captain Seamus Coleman may be forced to sit out the Merseyside Derby, after the star left-back developed a knee injury when playing for France and the Blues leader was forced to withdraw from the Republic of Ireland squad through a hamstring strain.
Digne was confident the issue would not prevent his involvement this week, which Ancelotti appears to have supported, meaning the £27m-rated star can maintain his 100% starting record in the top-flight this term.
Mina, Coleman and Michael Keane have also started each of Everton’s opening four fixtures of the league campaign, ensuring their place in the side to face Liverpool at the expense of £20million summer signing Ben Godfrey.
Everton’s Deadline Day deal for Robin Olsen should not force Jordan Pickford to depart his spot between the posts at Goodison Park, which the former Sunderland shot-stopper has held for the Blues’ last 131 games in succession.
Unlike the Everton backline, Ancelotti’s midfield should be the feature of some change from the side which beat Brighton & Hove Albion before the international break, with the Italian able to call on summer arrival Allan once more.
Allan was forced to miss the Seagulls affair through a groin injury sustained against West Ham United in the Carabao Cup, while joined in the physio’s room by Andre Gomes after the Portuguese’s knock.
Only Allan should step in to replace Tom Davies from the unit which beat Albion, though, as Ancelotti will have been impressed by how Gylfi Sigurdsson deputised for Gomes in the more advanced position.
It was Sigurdsson’s first start of the top-flight campaign at home to Brighton, adding to three late substitute outings, yet the Iceland international has recorded the same number of successful dribbles in the Premier League this term as his £112,212-per-week teammate (2), along with two more key balls and only one fewer ground duel won, per SofaScore.
Gomes has also only managed two more tackles than Sigurdsson, been dispossessed on five more occasions and is yet to register an accurate cross to the former Swansea star’s three.
Allan, meanwhile, should step in to replace Davies against Liverpool, as the Brazilian unit – who Ancelotti described to EvertonTV as a “fantastic player” with “fantastic energy” – continues to rank third for ground duels won (19), first for tackles (12) and sixth for accurate passes (158) despite missing a game.
Everton’s frontline picks itself after their unbeaten first four games, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin (6) and James Rodriguez (3) the Blues’ top-scorers, while the Colombian and Richarlison lead the side for assists (2).
Rodriguez further solidifies his name as one of the first on Ancelotti’s teamsheet through his team-high 13 key balls, four big chances created and second-most successful dribbles (8 to Richarlison’s 16).
Ancelotti will be glad to have so few selection dilemmas heading into a major test like Liverpool, but also be buoyed by having competition for places in midfield.
AND in other news, Everton have made a decision on the future of a £3million outcast.