Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed that James Rodriguez has been passed fit to face Manchester United on Saturday, but the Colombian attacker will not be the only change Everton make.
The Blues welcome Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s struggling Red Devils to Goodison Park looking to bounce back from successive Premier League defeats, having been beaten at Newcastle United last time out after tasting a first loss of the season at Southampton.
Everton have only dropped points on home soil once this season in October’s Merseyside Derby draw with Liverpool, and will be hoping to maintain Goodison’s fortress nature against United who last won on the blue half of Stanley Park in January 2018.
Solskjaer’s visiting side have struggled to secure all three points in any of their top-flight fixtures this term, too, with the Red Devils slumped just above the drop zone having taken just two wins in six.
But in Ancelotti’s search for a first Premier League victory since beating Brighton & Hove Albion 4-1, the Italian will need to rotate the starting line-up that lost to Newcastle as he welcomes Rodriguez as one of many back into the side.
So, as Everton plan vast changes across the board in hope of beating Manchester United, here’s a predicted XI the Italian could favour…
Ancelotti offered a surprise twist to the starting line-up at Newcastle by benching goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in favour of summer arrival Robin Olsen, though confirmed that the AS Roma loanee would only be featuring on Tyneside as he rested his regular choice.
“There is no technical reason,” Ancelotti noted, via quotes by the Liverpool Echo. “I wanted to give him a rest for this game [and] give the opportunity to Olsen to have minutes. Jordan will be back for the next game against United.”
It was the first time since Pickford joined Everton from Sunderland in 2017 for £25m rising to £30milllion that the England international did not start a Premier League, ending a run of 120 straight appearances between the sticks.
His return will place Pickford in the defence alongside compatriot Michael Keane and Colombia’s Yerry Mina, while joined by left-back Lucas Digne following the Frenchman’s one-match suspension after being sent off at Southampton.
Jonjoe Kenny featured at right-back against Newcastle but may find his place under threat at home to Manchester United, with Ancelotti confirming that captain Seamus Coleman has been passed fit following a hamstring injury.
“We have practically all the squad apart from Richarlison and [Fabian] Delph,” Ancelotti stated. “All the others are available. It is important to have James back, Coleman back and Digne back to have a better team and a better squad.”
Delph’s absence has been put down to a “little problem” that will sideline the former Manchester City midfielder for a few days, opening a slot for Andre Gomes to move back to a more natural position after playing a supportive forward role at Newcastle.
That said Gomes may find he is dropped alongside Kenny, Olsen and Niels Nkounkou, as the Portuguese ace picked up a slight injury at St. James’ Park that required his withdrawal in the 60th-minute.
Losing Delph and Gomes could allow Gylfi Sigurdsson to retain his place after offering five shots and two key balls against Steve Bruce’s Magpies, or create room for Tom Davies to earn his first Premier League start since the Brighton affair last month.
Sigurdsson would otherwise have found his place under threat with the return of Rodriguez, who SofaScore mark as the second-best performing player in the top-flight this term thanks to an average 8.15 match rating, achieved through a combined three assists from 18 key balls and five big chances created, plus 70 accurate final third passes, 16 successful dribbles and 10 shots for three goals.
Ancelotti continues to face a selection dilemma on the left-channel, however, as Richarlison’s final match suspended following his red card issued against Liverpool ensures the Brazilian cannot take over the duties Alex Iwobi and Gomes failed to cover at Southampton and Newcastle respectively.
Everton boss Ancelotti may feel Iwobi’s slack efforts at St. Mary’s, where he was hauled off at half-time after failing to record any key balls or shots on target, do not warrant another appearance, and may edge in favour of Bernard after overlooking the Brazilian at Newcastle.
Bernard is yet to start a Premier League match this season, but was told Ancelotti wanted to keep him at Goodison Park this summer amid interest from AS Roma as the 28-year-old is a valued member of the first-team.
Ancelotti has also hailed the former Shakhtar Donetsk playmaker as a useful addition to his Everton side when playing at home, noting in March: “Maybe, for the fact, that at Goodison we have more possibility to control the ball, he is really good with the ball and he did really well against Crystal Palace where he scored the first goal.
“When the game is in balance, it is more difficult for him to prove his quality. When we have control of the game, for him it is easier for him to prove his quality. Maybe, for this reason, I put him [in the team] at home and not away.
“He doesn’t have to convince me, I am already convinced he is a good player and helpful for us.”
Ancelotti has the chance to prove how useful he believes Bernard can be against Manchester United on Saturday, in one of what could be five changes to the side that lost at Newcastle.