Everton travel to West Bromwich Albion on Thursday looking to move inside the top-four of the Premier League standings, for a few hours at least.
The Toffees will move above Liverpool, Chelsea and West Ham United and into the Champions League positions with a win at the Hawthorns, before Jurgen Klopp’s Reds and Thomas Tuchel’s Blues face off at Anfield later tonight.
Everton have played one game fewer than their rivals for a UEFA berth and will hope to put the pressure on their competition, but Carlo Ancelotti faces a wealth of fitness concerns ahead of his side’s midweek contest.
With the Goodison Park natives also in action at Stamford Bridge on Monday, Ancelotti will be expected to rest and rotate his squad. So, with that in mind, here’s a potential line-up that the Italian tactician could name against Sam Allardyce’s Baggies…
Ancelotti has shown a willingness to rotate his goalkeeper options this season and may have sought to afford regular number one Jordan Pickford a break against West Brom, but may be forced to stick with the England international due to concerns over Robin Olsen’s fitness.
The AS Roma loanee is one of several Everton players facing late fitness tests to feature at the Hawthorns, where defender Yerry Mina plus midfielders Fabian Delph and Jean-Philippe Gbamin will be unavailable due to respective calf, tendon and Achilles injuries.
“We are going to check these players in training to see if they will be available or not,” Ancelotti said on Wednesday, regarding Seamus Coleman, James Rodriguez, Tom Davies and Olsen.
“For sure, we will not have Mina, Delph and Gbamin. The other players, we will also check.”
Ancelotti added that Allan is also a doubt following his return from a hamstring injury, noting: “After a few months out, he was maybe not 100 per cent fit [against Southampton].
“I think the staff worked hard on him. He was in good condition. He was motivated and wanted to play. Of course, he is a player we have to check today [Wednesday] to see if he can play against West Brom.”
With Davies being ruled unavailable, alongside the absences of Delph and Gbamin and doubts about Allan, that might force Ancelotti into naming Abdoulaye Doucoure and Andre Gomes as his sole engine room occupants at the Hawthorns.
The pair opened Monday’s win over Southampton beside Allan, while Mina’s injury plus the concerns over Coleman could see that Mason Holgate, Michael Keane, Ben Godfrey and Lucas Digne feature in an unchanged backline despite the need for rotation.
Ancelotti playing Rodriguez’s return cautiously after resting the Colombian at home to the Saints will likely see Gylfi Sigurdsson remain in the creative midfield role, joined by Richarlison and a return for £50,000-per-week winger Alex Iwobi in place of Allan.
Top-scorer Dominic Calvert-Lewin may be afforded a rest against West Brom, after the “determined” striker, per Joleon Lescott, delivered a tireless display against Ralph Hasenhuttl’s St. Mary’s natives during his first start since returning from a hamstring injury.
The England international sitting out his side’s trip to the Hawthorns will likely offer January arrival Joshua King a chance to earn his first start in royal blue, amid claims the Merseyside outfit will look to retain the Norway international beyond the end of the season.
AND in other news, Everton eye a £22.5m-rated speedster who is “hungry for success”…