John Stones was declared to be in "perfect condition" by Roberto Martinez despite the knocks he sustained at Norwich
When the 2015-16 fixture list was released back in June, Everton vs Leicester City was regarded as another run-of-the-mill encounter and, given the Foxes' close brush with relegation last season, probably seen as one of those games that the Toffees should win.
16 matches into the current campaign and it's one of the most intriguing matches of the season so far, bringing together the Premier League's two most productive attacking partnerships and its two leading goalscorers.
Leicester – quite astoundingly – come into the weekend as League leaders and in Jamie Vardy, a fairytle story for the ages himself, and Riyad Mahrez they have a duo that has been responsible for more top flight goals than any other this season. Vardy recently set the record a Premier League of 11 consecutive games with a goal and currently has 15 to his name while his
Egyptian Algerian "partner in crime" has 11.
Sandwiched in between on 12 goals them is Romelu Lukaku who is on a run of scoring in six straight League games, half of them thanks to the other side of Roberto Martinez's own dynamic double-act, Gerard Deulofeu. The Spanish wizard shares second place in the table of assists thus far with Mahrez, adding to what has all the ingredients to be a mouth-watering exhibition of attacking football.
If that wasn't enough, this will be a contest featuring two of the least secure defences in the top half of the division. The only team to have shipped more goals so far than the Blues' 21 is Leicester who have conceded 22, a testament to the never-say-die attitude that Claudio Ranieri, a man widely derided as a poor fit at the King Power Stadium when he was appointed as successor to Nigel Pearson over the summer, has perpetuated among his charges.
As Everton found out last season, the Foxes often didn't know they were beaten even back then. They came from behind in both games and actually led at Goodison Park back in February until Matthew Upson's own goal two minutes from time ensured that the two meetings between the clubs in 2014-15 would finish 2-2. In that respect, they’re probably the last team you want Everton to face in view of the last three Premier League matches where Martinez's men dropped valuable points on each occasion having easily been the better side and held the lead.
Indeed, there so much to admire about the mentality that Leicester have embodied so far, one that renders hollow any excuses that Everton might come up with for not having matched their achievements so far this term. Reality may well catch up with Ranieri's team sooner or later but they have already demonstrated the power of positivity, determination and abandoning all notion of an inferiority complex against the so-called big boys who were supposed to have a lock on the Champions League places this season.
Like the Toffees they have beaten Chelsea at home but unlike their hosts this weekend they have also registered wins over teams in the top half of the table and ground out important away wins over the likes of Swansea and Norwich. That has been the 12-point difference between the two clubs coming into Saturday's game.
The hope, though, is that Leicester's lofty position coming into this one might shift how Everton’s players approach the game psychologically and that they can feed off a motivation to be the team that shoots the flying Foxes down and brings them back to earth. Leicester will have had two days' less rest than the Blues, having featured in the Monday night game that proved to be Jose Mourinho's last at Stamford Bridge, and they will be without central defensive linchpin Robert Huth who is suspended. They also have a doubt in Danny Drinkwater who would represent another disruption to the flow that has made them the unlikely Premier League pace-setters.
Martinez, meanwhile, should have the same squad available as the last two League games. James McCarthy was set to undergo another late fitness test to see if he is over the hip problem he picked up at Bournemouth but with Tom Cleverley filling his role in impressive fashion, there is no need to rush the Irishman back so it would not be a surprise if he isn't selected.
Importantly, John Stones has been declared to be in "perfect condition" despite falling awkwardly on his ankle in the warm-up at Norwich last weekend and then requiring treatment during the match after colliding heavily with advertising hoardings. The defender played the full 90 minutes at Carrow Road, however, and appears to have shown no ill-effects since which will be hugely important for the Blues' prospects.
The fascinating dimension to this fixture is that both teams can be explosive on the counter-attack, with Leicester particularly reliant on forfeiting possession and drawing opponents onto them with the intention of hitting them on the break. Whether Martinez's preference for keeping the ball will play into Ranieri's hands in that respect or whether Everton's superiority on paper will give them edge remains to be seen. Of course, it could come down to which of two fallible defences performs better on the day or which of the hot attacking duos wins out. Whatever happens, let's hope the "Moss factor" doesn't influence the outcome – the Blues are on a run of three successive defeats with the headmaster officiating and have won just one of their last six with him as referee.
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Predicted line-up: Howard, Coleman, Stones, Funes Mori, Baines, Barry, Cleverley, Barkley, Deulofeu, Kone, Lukaku
Full coverage: ToffeeWeb Match Report
Reader Comments (86)
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1 Posted 18/12/2015 at 08:07:26
The last three games have really left us feeling like we have been nursing defeats, three draws from matches where throughout most, Palace the entire game and the first half at Norwich and Bournemouth particularly, we have been head and shoulders ahead of our opponents but we have had a combination of bad finishing, bad luck and bad circus act defending.
We must start winning matches; we are getting nowhere drawing every week. Really we should have been celebrating 9 points from the last three games instead of three, this will define whether our ambitions of a top 4/5 challenge are serious or merely pie in the sky.
Tomorrow we can make a huge statement by beating the high flying league leaders, whatever people think of Leicester being top, they are there on merit, they have been the outstanding team of the season, maybe the entire calendar year of 2015.
It will be interesting to see how we cope with the movement of Mahrez and Vardy, they have been every team's nightmare and our defence notoriously struggles with good movement.
2 Posted 18/12/2015 at 08:30:12
A good win will set us up nicely for the Xmas period, and I expect nothing less.
3 Posted 18/12/2015 at 08:34:53
Our Phenomenal Manager will say we were dominant for long periods, had bad luck and just need a little more ruthlessness blah blah, but the reality is we are likely to get stuffed. I don't care what their name is, they are the league leaders.
4 Posted 18/12/2015 at 08:53:06
That said, we do look good going forward ourselves and might (with better finishing and a bit more luck) have scored a lot more than we have. It's the defence that worries me oh and corners we need our midfielders tracking back tomorrow because these have proved how quick they are on the break.
We left ourselves vulnerable a couple of times against Palace when chasing a winner so that worries me. I've said it before but I think this has got draw written all over it: 1-1 or 2-2. Hope I'm wrong!
5 Posted 18/12/2015 at 09:05:28
With keeping Howard in goal, maybe he's not trying hard enough to improve us defensively? I just hope our forwards are a lot more ruthless tomorrow when they get a chance.
6 Posted 18/12/2015 at 09:27:28
I think we will be surprised by how good Leicester are. Teams who top the table are normally a different 'kettle of fish' to the rest. They will be supremely confident. We mustn't underestimate them.
7 Posted 18/12/2015 at 09:30:36
I haven't seen them play a full match, what's their usual tactics, counter attack or going at the opposition from the start?
8 Posted 18/12/2015 at 09:35:19
This really is the pivotal game of the season for us. Win it, and it sets us up for Christmas, with the league-leaders scalp; lose it, and Lukaku's hopes of a top four finish will look as far away as ever.
We really do need to put a marker down with this game, and announce to the rest of the league, that we mean business.
9 Posted 18/12/2015 at 09:44:07
I've seen quite a bit of Leicester this season and I won't be surprised by how good a team they are; they have played some fantastic football at a blistering high tempo and I think a lot of people just think of. "Leicester, oh they are a small team" but they are a damn effective team and I've always said, a team that works it's socks off together is almost worth a one goal start.
It will be arguably our most trying game of the season tomorrow as although we have played some of the biggest team's like Man City, Arsenal, Man Utd and Chelsea, none were really at the top of their game, the defeats we suffered to some of them were due to our own poor performances.
Tomorrow for me is against a team bang in form.
10 Posted 18/12/2015 at 09:52:42
11 Posted 18/12/2015 at 09:53:46
12 Posted 18/12/2015 at 09:55:33
13 Posted 18/12/2015 at 10:07:08
In case you haven't seen much of Everton lately, as soon as Leicester get a corner, your 4-0 prediction is over!
14 Posted 18/12/2015 at 10:10:22
This is definitely a winnable game but only if we cut out the schoolboy mistakes at the back.
15 Posted 18/12/2015 at 10:13:22
16 Posted 18/12/2015 at 10:16:55
I have nothing but total respect and admiration for Leicester and their manager (written off by Chelsea, as basically not good enough) and the team who have been assembled on a limited budget, with no megabuck stars (as Man City / Chelski have).
It should prove an inspiration for every Prem team, and indeed Championship teams too, that it can be achieved by honest graft and team play. While I know it's relatively early in the Prem campaign for champions, I would be made-up if Leicester did it (assuming we won't) but not till after we have beaten them tomorrow.
17 Posted 18/12/2015 at 10:29:25
I like a bet but I usually refrain on our matches.
The bookies have come down strong in our favour though.
I do think the timing is right for us to get a result on Saturday, but I don't think I'd be rushing to back us at evens.
11/4 for them is pretty generous considering the results they have had recently!
Still an Everton win for me.
18 Posted 18/12/2015 at 10:35:29
But I do think Leicester will win tomorrow because they will simply outscore us due to our leaky defence. I predict 3-2 Leicester 1-1 at half time.
19 Posted 18/12/2015 at 10:46:49
The United game, again I don't think United were that good on the day, it was a sombre atmosphere due to Howard Kendal's death and well, the team just didn't turn up that day, Manchester United had just been smacked 3-0 at Arsenal and were asking to be tested defensively, we just didn't do it!!
20 Posted 18/12/2015 at 11:05:28
The salient difference between the two sets of statistics and managerial game plans ie, to not worry about conceding goals so long as you score more than the opposition is that Leicester have actually managed to do that, whereas we have on most occasions managed to atch the opposition score thus dropping the points that would otherwise have made this a top of the table clash.
Intriguing indeed, and a real shame it is not showing live on TV. I will be avidly following on the live forum as always so keep your comments nice and descriptive, guys.
21 Posted 18/12/2015 at 11:20:57
Nevertheless I hope we give them a pasting. You just never know what to expect with us at the moment. One thing you can guarantee though is that this will not be a 0-0 draw. I am looking forward to a cracking game.
23 Posted 18/12/2015 at 11:54:49
24 Posted 18/12/2015 at 11:59:12
25 Posted 18/12/2015 at 12:31:18
This game will suit them down to the ground. They love their counter attacking play and Vardy and Mahrez have a decent turn of pace in them.
We need to be careful and the second Kone starts lagging on the left in front of Baines, he needs to be subbed.
Baines isn't up to full match fitness yet and near the end of games he is left isolated so often with Kone not having the legs to cover for him, Barry tries but he is as quick as my dead cat.
Keep our heads and we can win this, then Leicester can go on and win the league. It's better than the usual suspects pissing it all the time.
26 Posted 18/12/2015 at 12:50:40
If they showed any sign of consistency, they could have taken the Premier League by storm in the way that Leicester have. Instead, Claudio Ranieri takes the league leaders to Goodison Park in the last game before Christmas with Everton six points off the Champions League places and firmly in mid-table.
MartiiÃ‚Ânez has the building blocks of a top-level side, but supporters are beginning to doubt if he will ever be the man to get the most out of them. This will be all too familiar to Wigan fans, who watched with delight as he led them to a most unlikely FA Cup success, followed all too quickly with a demoralising and hugely damaging relegation.
If MartiÃƒâ€šÃ‚Ânez is to develop as a manager he needs to prove he can sustain form over the course of a season, rather than glimpses of magic interspersed with comic defending. If he can't crack that there's no way he'll hold on to the likes of John Stones and Lukaku, and Everton will find themselves with one hell of a rebuilding job on their hands. Written by Toby Moses in The Guardian.
Very accurate in my opinion and those predicting a 4-0 win for us against Leicester might want to check their medication. It's interesting that even the mainstream media are beginning to focus on our defensive frailties.
27 Posted 18/12/2015 at 12:52:50
I hope RM makes our players forget Leicesters form of last year and make them aware that only a top performance will get us all 3 points. I would also add don't think this game is over even if we get 2 goals in front, they have come back from a couple of games were they were losing 2-0. Also with our track record of not being able to hold on to 2 goal leads, should stop any complacency creeping in.
28 Posted 18/12/2015 at 13:05:04
The Spanish kid can come around the hour mark and replace Lennon who will be feeling the pace then, thanks to Martinez giving no minutes on the pitch for quite awhile.
We can win this if everyone concentrates for 90 minutes and all the substitutes are used, preferably early and the defence does what it hasn't done all season, watches and plays the ball, not the man. Here's hoping.
29 Posted 18/12/2015 at 13:07:02
If we hit them hard and fast, we can win, make no mistake, this could end up 4-3, but if we play how we can for 90 mins, a big if I know, then I fancy us to pick up three points.
30 Posted 18/12/2015 at 13:13:56
How many seasons in the last couple of decades have fans been bored by the tiresome predictability of the top league? Any fans who are lucky enough to be at Goodison tomorrow, I hope they get behind the team, in the same way that Leicester garner support at their home ground but minus the silly clapping things obviously. Everton do need to win a league game and soon; hopefully at tea-time tomorrow we will all be celebrating a victory but who would bet on it?
31 Posted 18/12/2015 at 13:14:41
32 Posted 18/12/2015 at 13:24:37
Our left-hand side is my worry as Mahrez has been running riot down their right flank. Watching the highlights from when they beat Swansea he seemed to be in the proverbial acres of space nearly all the time. Baines wasn't up to speed last week and although Kone does some tracking back his primary task is to get forward.
33 Posted 18/12/2015 at 13:31:37
34 Posted 18/12/2015 at 13:33:07
It won't be long before reality pops its ugly head up and kicks them all in the bollocks, that's life. Let's hope it's us that brings them back to earth.
James, that piece you're quoting, how does he know what the majority of fans think, there may be some such as yourself that doubt him but the majority? When we make loads of chances and don't score enough, is that his fault. When we give a goal away like the Norwich game, if there's players in position like the were and they can't get a head on it first, is that his fault!
Managers always get to carry the can, when most of the time i'ts the players who can't do the business, look at Chelsea most of them have played like their legs were tied together.
35 Posted 18/12/2015 at 13:53:18
Leaving Deulofeu on the bench would be insanity...
He will get loads of space because they defend narrow and pack the box; if he's on-blob, he will have a field day.
I'm sticking with my prediction of a comfortable win, I repeat what I said on another thread, "They are not a good side". They are effective but are also very vulnerable and we will beat them.
36 Posted 18/12/2015 at 14:11:02
Spot on. Leicester's back four defend the width of the 18-yard box. Early ball will see Deulofeu in lots of space. If he gets his delivery right, we are in business.
Mahrez wants to come inside onto his left foot, a lot depends on Galloway and Baines showing him the outside and Funes Mori covering the right-footed cross. Don't play too high line across the back four, negating the space for Vardy to make the diagonal run for the straight ball or the straight run for the diagonal ball. Most of Vardy's goals come that way.
37 Posted 18/12/2015 at 14:13:11
38 Posted 18/12/2015 at 14:29:54
Another is his choice of subs and, the timings, when he does,subs should be given more time to adjust not just five or ten minutes,even a few seconds, from the end, our biggest ,and most obvious,problem is our failure to hold on to a lead by allowing the opposition to exploit our 'two halves' habit dominating one then losing the second.
At present we are heavily reliant on our 'deadly duo' to provide goals,if either one is injured we are in big trouble as we have no other options available to penetrate packed defences, although Baines and Cleverley aren't afraid to have a go from distance, and though Barkley has this abiity he seems reluctant to use it given the chance, I was pleased to see their Hulk Hogan won't be throwing his weight around and this will help us take the points tomorrow I believe.
40 Posted 18/12/2015 at 14:56:54
The manager is closer to his players, I mean information wise, so there can be issues that we're not aware of that influence his decisions. Of course he'll make mistakes like all managers none are perfect.
Although he had the resources at his disposal, Ferguson at Man Utd must have been as close to perfect as you can get as a manager.
41 Posted 18/12/2015 at 15:04:06
The only game they lost this season was 5-2 to Arsenal and as we are considered "Arsenal lite" I will take us to win 3-2 or 4-2.
Having said that, we are due a clean sheet but can you honestly see Leicester not scoring against us?
42 Posted 18/12/2015 at 15:23:03
43 Posted 18/12/2015 at 15:25:10
44 Posted 18/12/2015 at 16:14:18
45 Posted 18/12/2015 at 16:36:37
Their injury list is De Laet, James, Schlupp, and Drinkwater, and Huth suspended. So they may be vulnerable to a pacey attack.
Last season when I watched the first Leicester game versus Everton, I thought (and posted) that if you squinted a little at the screen they looked like Everton more than we did. This season, they have eclipsed us.
Sad to say but a glimpse at their squad shows it is deeper and overall, more talented than ours. Look at their strikers and mids who can't even get time on the pitch as well as some of their defenders including the Frenchman they got from Atalanta. Odd that Ranieri turned around the defense from last season with Wes Morgan and Huth both looking like newly minted players. Great job by Leicester but they can start a new winning streak after this weekend's game.
Having said all of that, Everton will win. Stones will manage to actually win some headers. Deulofeu will hook up with Lukaku and maybe Mirallas too. Everton 3-1.
As for Jose, I think he may end up back at Real Madrid for next season after Rafa gets shown the door. He may be able to get them to buy Stones. If so, I hope we hold out for the ridiculous transfer fees they seem to be able to pay in the summer transfer window. I then hope we go buy Shawcross, with apologies to Colin.
46 Posted 18/12/2015 at 16:56:26
With the frustration of the previous 3 league games still smarting, I fancy a tonking could be on the cards for the Foxes.
4-1 to the Ev.
47 Posted 18/12/2015 at 16:56:43
48 Posted 18/12/2015 at 17:18:27
Mirallas could then come on for the last ½ hour if, as seems likely, he yet again doesn't start, in place of any of RB, GD & LB.
Hope to hell we don't sell Kevin, he deserves a decent run in the side that penalty farce last season was way overdone.
Leicester deserve to be where they are; I still believe we're well able to beat them. I think it's great to see a more even league this season... just hurting that we've so far missed an opportunity to be right in the mix at the top end. COYB!
49 Posted 18/12/2015 at 18:12:52
You sound so confident of an Everton win I might have a dabble on them, you are most certainly right that we have a good chance of winning, especially if they play the full game and not just one half.
50 Posted 18/12/2015 at 18:20:47
51 Posted 18/12/2015 at 18:20:54
Many rate Cleverley, I've watched him since his Man Utd days and can see nothing that rates a contract, Ray Wilkins/Didier Deschamps, etc. he just runs and makes safe passes sometimes but the Echo had him as 8/10 last week @ Norwich, maybe I need a trip to specsavers.
52 Posted 18/12/2015 at 18:43:00
League leaders at home, 3 pm Saturday kick off, a week before crimbo great stuff!
As for the result, I've no idea we're certainly capable of wellying them (or anyone else for that matter) but they are an incredibly hard working team plus we have no idea which Everton will turn up.
If the first-half Everton from last week play, it'll be a breeze, if it's the mob who showed up in the second half, we're goosed.
You have to take your (possibly half-Celtic, half-Everton wooly) hat off to them for their performances over the past 25 games or so and I do.
Anyway... that said... um... UP THE TOFFEES!
53 Posted 18/12/2015 at 18:44:13
54 Posted 18/12/2015 at 18:56:32
55 Posted 18/12/2015 at 18:56:46
56 Posted 18/12/2015 at 19:00:56
57 Posted 18/12/2015 at 19:13:24
We are better than this crew, better in every single department, We're bigger, stronger, faster and we have more talent... even up front and right wing.
They are without two of their most influential characters and we are the home team... Okay, they have a stronger dug-out than us, but that won't save them.
I won't back us to win, those odds won't pay for Chrimbo. I'll be thinking more in terms of how many we'll win by when I walk into William Hill tomorrow.
I'm going for an emphatic win in front of a well up for it Goodison crowd... I can't fucking wait.
58 Posted 18/12/2015 at 19:55:24
I can understand Chelsea with their drama but United - Norwich is literally the most boring matchup in the League right now. Damnit. Oh well, I'll be following on TW Live Forum 'cause that is good for my health!
As to the actual game, who knows?! Leicester finally has some injuries to deal with and Everton might be in the mood to shake off the taste of 3 straight draws with an emphatic WIN.
59 Posted 18/12/2015 at 20:01:33
60 Posted 18/12/2015 at 20:06:49
61 Posted 18/12/2015 at 20:09:41
62 Posted 18/12/2015 at 20:12:00
A slight contradiction from the pessimistic first paragraph, I think we will cope better with Mahrez and Vardy than a bustling front man who can bully both Stones and Funes Mori-witness how easily a journeyman footballer like Cameron Jerome pushed past Stones in the lead up to the first goal.
But then again. who knows knowing us, we may win 5-0!!
63 Posted 18/12/2015 at 20:13:43
I started the week confident, no pretty confident we would do them because we are due to give someone a pasting and they are due a fall.
As time gets closer I'm starting to get the willies.
I still think if the team are in one of their going days we will win, but like you I wont be taking the even money.
64 Posted 18/12/2015 at 20:27:48
66 Posted 18/12/2015 at 21:14:54
67 Posted 18/12/2015 at 21:28:13
68 Posted 18/12/2015 at 21:39:48
70 Posted 18/12/2015 at 22:02:07
71 Posted 18/12/2015 at 22:15:12
We have to win, to show all and sundry that we are in with a say, and we may then have the confidence to put a few wins together.
Defeat will knock the stuffing out of us. A draw would be creditable, given their status, but who needs yet another one of those?
73 Posted 18/12/2015 at 22:17:56
74 Posted 18/12/2015 at 22:22:34
75 Posted 18/12/2015 at 22:45:17
76 Posted 18/12/2015 at 23:05:04
Pony up and buy the Extra Time package. It's well worth it. You'll never miss a game.
I'd like to echo Derek Knox's sentiments. Leicester are a club to be admired. They play their hearts out, and it's wonderful to watch. Not one prima donna in the whole team. As Eugene said, a team.
I'm looking forward to tomorrow. Two of the more exciting teams to watch. It should be a fantastic game.
If I had a Christmas wish, it would be to see us string six full-effort, high intensity halves together this Christmas season. Not one half sublime, then the next a silent but deadly fart.
Ho, ho, ho! Let's climb the table. Dare I say we deserve it the way we've played. Time to show our worth.
77 Posted 19/12/2015 at 01:04:10
If Besic is healthy, play him; attached to Mahrez everywhere on the pitch. Young Muhamed didn't exactly stifle Messi in the WC. He did, though, make him work his ass off for the entire game. Mahrez is terrific, but he's not Lionel Messi.
Let's stop Mahrez.
79 Posted 19/12/2015 at 02:24:15
80 Posted 19/12/2015 at 02:39:45
81 Posted 19/12/2015 at 04:52:08
82 Posted 19/12/2015 at 09:42:17
On today's game we will have to show real spirit for 90 minutes if we are to win. Left side will be a problem.
83 Posted 19/12/2015 at 09:53:43
They remind of a Moyes Everton team playing good football and getting results, the only difference is their manager is not afraid to win. I just heard OFM is out of work again: two jobs lasting less than a year yet he reigned supreme here for 11 years. What went wrong? Answers on a postage stamp please.
84 Posted 19/12/2015 at 11:04:59
A lot depends on what the manager asks of a player. McCarthy, for example shocks us when he makes a foray into the box, or has a shot! It must be down to his remit from Martinez.
The other week, Barkley was playing in a deep role, in a very conservative way (just simple little passes here and there) and he was criticised on here by many. He was obviously told to hold back.
Given time, Cleverly will do well. The winner today will be a fine start.
85 Posted 19/12/2015 at 11:43:18
Hat-trick for Rom - 2 pens, Barkley 1, Gerri 1,
What odds will I get on that?
There is a Father Xmas isn't there?
Oh and I still believe in fairies.
86 Posted 19/12/2015 at 11:52:19
88 Posted 19/12/2015 at 12:39:56
I'm thinking we will thump them today. 4-1
That's my new prediction and I think a Lukaku hat-trick.
90 Posted 19/12/2015 at 13:21:57
Still 8-5 or 4-1 still gives us an extra three more towards the goal difference Ã¢â‚¬â€œ any winning score will do me by the way.
91 Posted 19/12/2015 at 13:45:22
92 Posted 19/12/2015 at 13:48:19
93 Posted 19/12/2015 at 14:11:34
94 Posted 19/12/2015 at 16:31:27
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