Michael Keane will be key to Carlo Ancelotti’s plans of beating Southampton this Sunday, with the Everton colossus vital to preventing Danny Ings from maintaining his stellar form.
Everton travel to St. Mary’s this weekend looking to extend their unbeaten start to the Premier League season, after VAR drama helped the Goodison Park outfit avoid defeat at home to Liverpool in the Merseyside Derby last time out.
The result kept the Toffees atop the league standings by a point to Aston Villa heading into the weekend, while a 3-3 draw at Chelsea saw Southampton slip to 12th place with two wins in five following victories over Burnley and West Bromwich Albion.
Ings struck the first of the Saints’ goals at Stamford Bridge to keep Ralph Hasenhuttl’s hopes of a result alive, while Jannik Vestergaard’s stoppage-time equaliser will ensure the south coast side are brimming with confidence when they host Everton on Sunday.
Ings’ 43rd-minute goal against Chelsea marked the 28-year-old’s fourth of the season, as he continues to impress for the Saints since his initial arrival on loan from Liverpool now with 37 strikes in 73 games across all competitions to his name.
The forward – who Southampton signed permanently for £20million in 2019 – accounts for 50% of the Saints’ total eight goals in the Premier League this season, a contribution rate only bettered by Wilfried Zaha (67% of Crystal Palace’s six goals) and Callum Wilson (57% of Newcastle’s seven goals).
Ancelotti will be aware that neutralising the threat Ings presents will be crucial to taking a result on the south coast this weekend, and will be buoyed by Keane’s dominant record against the three-time England international.
Keane has faced Ings in five Premier League fixtures throughout their respective careers, with Everton’s £30m centre-half coming out on top in two of those meetings and holding his compatriot to two draws.
Ings has provided three goals across those five meetings but has never beaten Everton when he has scored, with the Winchester-born ace unable to break the goal line in Southampton’s 2-1 win in January 2019.
The Saints won on that occasion through a second-half strike from James Ward-Prowse and an own goal from Lucas Digne, which Gylfi Sigurdsson’s 91st-minute hit could not prevent from proving crucial.
Keane, alongside Chelsea loanee Kurt Zouma, restricted Ings to just two shots although both were on target and saved by Jordan Pickford, while forcing the 28-year-old into failing two of his four dribbles and misplacing eight of his 25 passes, per WhoScored.
Ings was even less influential to proceedings when Everton held Liverpool to a goalless draw in April 2018, when the forward – fielded at right-wing by Jurgen Klopp – failed to register any shots, misplaced 11 of his 46 passes, made no successful dribbles and was disposed twice before being hauled off in the 89th-minute. Keane, meanwhile, recorded two tackles, won six aerial duels and registered nine clearances.
Ancelotti will be hopeful that Keane can replicate his performance against Liverpool in 2018 and force a timid display from Ings when Everton travel to Southampton this Sunday.