Everton host Crystal Palace on Monday night looking to get back to winning ways, but Carlo Ancelotti faces a few injury concerns ahead of the Premier League encounter.
The Toffees are winless in their last three games across all competitions and have only won two of their last eight held at Goodison Park, including defeats to Newcastle United, Fulham and Burnley.
Crystal Palace will arrive on Merseyside striving to avoid the Blues doing the double after succumbing to a 2-1 defeat at Selhurst Park back in September. The Eagles have now failed to beat Everton since 2014, losing six and drawing six of their recent encounters.
Ancelotti could rely on summer signing James Rodriguez to maintain his side’s imperious record after the Colombian’s return from a calf injury. But, with other players a doubt, here’s a potential line-up the Everton boss may field tonight…
Everton will be without Jordan Pickford against Crystal Palace, as the England goalkeeper continues his recovery from an abdominal injury.
Robin Olsen also sat out last month’s FA Cup defeat to Manchester City with a similar issue, but has recovered and will be in contention to guard the net against the Eagles.
Joao Virginia stood in for Pickford and Olsen against Pep Guardiola’s Citizens and impressed, so should now expect to retain the role on Monday night for what would be his first start in a Premier League game.
Ancelotti named a five-man defence of Lucas Digne, Ben Godfrey, Yerry Mina, Mason Holgate and Seamus Coleman for the FA Cup quarter-final defeat last time out, but will be expected to favour a four-man line at home to Crystal Palace.
Holgate was sacrificed against Manchester City in the closing stages to allow for Everton to be more aggressive in search of an equalising goal and could be dropped from the starting XI to permit the Toffees to start on the front foot.
Godfrey is also a doubt for the Eagles’ trip to Goodison Park after returning from international duty with England’s Under 21s nursing a minor knock alongside teammate Tom Davies, and both could now be rested as a precaution.
Davies’ absence in midfield would be expected to see a shift in formation from Ancelotti with Abdoulaye Doucoure potentially out for the rest of the season with a fractured foot, while Fabian Delph and Bernard are also set to be unavailable on Monday night.
Alex Iwobi may be drafted in for a starting role on the right-wing, with the £50k-per-week forward joining Richarlison in offering Everton greater width against the Eagles.
Iwobi has started the Toffees’ last three Premier League games but was dropped to the bench for the FA Cup clash with Manchester City, having failed to impress when given the chance to operate centrally in defeat to Burnley last month.
Iwobi and Richarlison may be joined in behind Dominic Calvert-Lewin by Rodriguez after the ex-Real Madrid maestro returned to full training over the international break following a calf injury.
Rodriguez has missed Everton’s last five games in all competitions as a result of the issue but had registered his eighth assist of the season during his last outing when setting Richarlison free to open the scoring away to Liverpool.
Ancelotti will hope to see more of the same from the 29-year-old, having urged Rodriguez to rediscover the form that saw the £27m-rated playmaker score three times and assist three goals in his first five Premier League games.
“James is in good condition and he trained well during the break,” Ancelotti said on Friday. “It is important for us to have him back at his best. At the start of the season, he did really well. He helped the team to score goals.”
His inclusion would be the third and final change.