Carlo Ancelotti must hand Everton’s promising youth defender Niels Nkounkou a rare chance to impress against Liverpool this Saturday with Seamus Coleman a major doubt for the Merseyside Derby.
Coleman was forced off in the Toffees’ last Premier League fixture, having sustained a hamstring strain during the closing stages of their 4-2 win at home to Brighton & Hove Albion.
The issue was only considered to be “small” at the time, with Ancelotti noting via quotes by RTE that it was the same issue sustained against West Ham United in the Carabao Cup, but Coleman has since been forced to withdraw from the Republic of Ireland’s squad for their October internationals including a European Championship qualifying play-off.
Now, the Liverpool Echo suggest Coleman is a worry for Everton’s next league clash, which could spark a crisis at Finch Farm as Ancelotti seeks a potential right-back answer.
Tom Davies slotted in to fill the full-back role against Brighton having started the affair in midfield, though Ancelotti would likely favour a more natural alternative against Liverpool if Coleman is forced to sit out the Merseyside Derby.
But the Italian coach will have a slack list of options elsewhere in his squad with Jonjoe Kenny out for around four weeks after twisting his ankle in the EFL Cup win over West Ham, leaving summer signing Nkounkou an unlikely but necessary option to face the Premier League champions.
Nkounkou, who joined the Toffees on a free transfer from Olympique de Marseille in July, is naturally a left-back who can also play in midfield, yet may be forced into making his English top-flight debut at home to the title-holders to cover for the developing injury crisis.
Ancelotti named the 19-year-old on the bench against Brighton and has awarded him starting roles in each of the Toffees’ three Carabao Cup wins to date, in which he assisted Everton’s fifth of the night against Fleetwood Town deep into stoppage-time.
Blues Director of Football Marcel Brands lauded the potential Nkounkou brought to Merseyside upon his capture this summer, noting via quotes by The Times: “Niels is a young, talented player with good technical and physical skills.
“We have been following him for months. Hopefully, he can learn a lot from Lucas Digne and Leighton Baines, as well as Carlo Ancelotti and David Unsworth, and follow the same pathway into the first-team the likes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Mason Holgate have taken in recent years.”
Nkounkou displayed that potential against West Ham in his only taste of Premier League competition as he accepted a more defensive-minded role up against Andriy Yarmolenko, who he kept to just the single effort on goal thanks to four tackles, one clearance, one block, one interception and four ground duel wins, while completing 38 of 42 attempted passes, per SofaScore.
Ancelotti will be aware that Nkounkou is not the ideal option, but the Italian may accept that the former France U19 international is the only option if Coleman cannot play against Liverpool.