Everton are in a position where picking up points is becoming crucial as the race for the European places intensifies, with Leicester, West Ham and Arsenal in direct competition to steal a spot in the Europa League.
The Toffees could have done with an easy three-pointer after the international break after going five games without a win. Alas, they will face Premier League champions Manchester City next Sunday, and Rafael Benitez will be planning on how he can break down the Cityzens’ title-winning defence.
Benitez will be relieved to have Richarlison back after he sustained a knee injury against Burnley in September. Both he and Dominic Calvert-Lewin have been missing for a while, with the latter ruled out for a few more weeks (much to the manager’s frustration), and their absence has had a clear effect on a rough patch of results.
Speaking on the return of the 24-year-old Brazil star prior to the international break, Benitez said: “When you have a player who has been doing so well last year and is a key player for you, and was good for us at the start of the season, you can miss him or you can be really pleased and it can be a big positive for the team when he is coming back and scoring goals like the other day.’
The return of Richarlison could be of huge benefit to the Blues. The forward is not shy of scoring against Manchester City having done so twice already, and he has also been left out of the Brazil squad to focus on his fitness, so will surely be keen and ready to face the champions next Sunday.
The 24-year-old is arguably one of the biggest stars at Everton and has offered a number of decisive moments for the Toffees in his three years, with 40 goals and 12 assists in 150 appearances with the club in the Premier League.
The Brazilian has scored some incredible and crucial goals for his side against some of the high-flying title contenders including Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and most famously against Merseyside rivals Liverpool.
Whereas Richarlison should undoubtedly be in the line-up at the Etihad Stadium next week if he is in any way fit to feature, one man who absolutely must not get in ahead of him is Salomon Rondon.
The Venezuelan has struggled since his move to Everton in the summer transfer window, failing to score in eight appearances and coming in for fierce criticism from some fans over his performances. He has also been one of the squad’s lowest-rated performers according to WhoScored, with an average match rating of just 6.34 (Richarlison has 6.83 and two league goals by comparison).
Therefore, Benitez has to unleash a fresh Richarlison next week and ensure that the out-of-sorts Rondon isn’t in the team ahead of him.