With a welcome 10-day hiatus out of the way, Everton return to action this weekend with a trip to Watford as they look to move past the calamitous end to their last Premier League outing.
The Blues threw away two points in 60-odd poorly-managed seconds at the end of the home game against Newcastle United and had to settle for a 2-2 draw but a visit to Vicarage Road offers the opportunity to make amends and also put right what has become a forgettable record on that ground.
Everton have lost each of their last three away games at Watford and haven't actually won in this part of Hertfordshire since 2007.
This is the Carlo Ancelotti era now, though, and there is growing satisfaction with the way the Italian has his new charges playing a month into his tenure. The first 93 minutes of the match against the Magpies was as well as the Toffees have played all season and with more players returning to fitness, particularly in midfield, there is hope that things can only continue to get better.
Ancelotti has been boosted by the availability of three potentially key players ahead of this game with Richarlison (knee), Gylfi Sigurdsson (groin), and Alex Iwobi (hamstring) all having recovered from their recent respective injury problems.
It means that only long-term absentees André Gomes and Jean-Philippe Gbamin are ruled out, although with the Portuguese now training with the first team, he could add to the manager's options further by making an earlier than expected return to first-team action.
Those options will, by Ancelotti's own admission, make picking a team that little bit more difficult. The side has largely picked itself in recent weeks but as the boss told evertontv: “Richarlison and Iwobi are available. Gylfi Sigurdsson is available so it will be difficult to choose my line-up.”
Richarlison being available presents Ancelotti with perhaps his biggest conundrum — does he pair his two top scorers together in the striking duo that has easily proved to the most potent thus far and drop Moise Kean to the bench in the first game after he finally got off the mark?
Or does he try and deploy all three together, perhaps using Richarlison wide on the right instead of Theo Walcott and preserve the partnership between Kean and Dominic Calvert-Lewin that was so brilliant against Newcastle or going 4-3-3 and perhaps sacrificing Bernard's inventiveness but at the potential expense of Lucas Digne's best partnership down the left?
Then there's the question of how to deploy Alex Iwobi, a player who has really only looked effective playing in a central role behind the strikers in Marco Silva's 4-3-1-2 system, although given the former Arsenal man's lack of fitness — he hasn't played in well over a month — that might be a moot point this weekend.
As far as central midfield goes, no one has really offered much consistency but Fabian Delph and Morgan Schneiderlin was as good as any pairing this season in the Newcastle game and they might have done enough to persuade the manager to persist with them, particularly against what is a robust Watford midfield.
Mason Holgate's impressive cameo as a central midfielder against Manchester United last month does offer Ancelotti one further option, of course, now that Michael Keane is fit again and able to partner Yerry Mina if needed.
For their part, Watford have undergone a remarkable revival of fortunes under their own new boss, Nigel Pearson. The Hornets were rock bottom of the Premier League and seemingly doomed when he took over from Quique Sánchez Flores on 6th December and he has guided them to within two points of safety.
They have benefitted from having Troy Deeney back in the team but will be without one of their main attacking threats in the form of Ismaïla Sarr who is out injured while former Blue, Tom Cleverley, isn't match fit and will sit this one out.
Kiko Femenía is also ruled out but Danny Welbeck is fit again and could start while Will Hughes, another important member of their midfield, has trained this week and should also be available.
Everton have, of course, beaten Watford twice already this season, both times at Goodison Park and on the second occasion, the League Cup tie in late October, the Blues were by far the better team and deservedly ran out 2-0 winners.
Again, Watford are a different proposition under Pearson who has stiffened their resolve and made them much harder to beat and they will also have the advantage of home turf this weekend.
Another impotent attacking display like the one Ancelotti's men turned in at West Ham in their last away game would make this a difficult one to win but if the Italian can inspire something akin to or better than the display against Newcastle then another three important points could be theirs.
Kick-off: 3pm, Saturday, 1st February, 2020
Referee: Craig Pawson
VAR: Jon Moss
Last Time: Watford 1 - 0 Everton
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Sidibé, Mina, Holgate, Digne, Delph, Sigurdsson, Bernard, Walcott, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin
Reader Comments (71)
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1 Posted 30/01/2020 at 22:15:56
2 Posted 30/01/2020 at 22:20:20
Hoping that Richarlison can steal the show though and bag a brace against his old employers.
3 Posted 30/01/2020 at 22:26:13
4 Posted 30/01/2020 at 22:27:17
This won't be an easy game but as has been mentioned with the right team selection and tactics not an impossible one either. I think not having played last Saturday or Sunday has given Carlo not only longer with the squad, but a chance for injured personnel to recover.
5 Posted 30/01/2020 at 22:29:24
6 Posted 30/01/2020 at 22:38:45
Midfield and good start is key. How long will take our team to get into the game?
I'll take 2-3, to us, Richarlison, to get a brace.
7 Posted 30/01/2020 at 22:43:35
Yes, I see Richarlison listed but not the other two “keyâ€ men... though, in unrelated news, Sigurdsson and Iwobi are back.
8 Posted 30/01/2020 at 23:51:42
Well, now you mention it, score more goals than the opposition, try not to let any goals in, and above all see any lead out to the bitter end!
9 Posted 30/01/2020 at 23:53:23
10 Posted 30/01/2020 at 23:55:02
11 Posted 31/01/2020 at 01:13:57
Steady on; that's a bit revolutionary, isn't it?
12 Posted 31/01/2020 at 01:44:35
The only problem is, he's less effective on the wing, but I don't think he has enough defensive presence to play centrally in a 4-4-2.
13 Posted 31/01/2020 at 01:51:51
14 Posted 31/01/2020 at 03:55:13
15 Posted 31/01/2020 at 04:11:09
16 Posted 31/01/2020 at 05:42:50
And Watford would be 3rd in the league I think on current form, they are storming on. This is not an easy game by any means.
17 Posted 31/01/2020 at 06:47:22
Who would you have then?
Whether you like Ancelotti or not, he's here for the long term.
We can't keep changing managers.
Providing he's prepared to stay! Get behind him.
18 Posted 31/01/2020 at 06:52:02
Sidibe Mina Holgate Digne
Delph Schneiderlin Siggy
Richarlison Calvert-Lewin Kean
Subs: Lossl, Coleman, Keane, Davies, Iwobi, Bernard, Gordon.
That looks like a very strong team and substitutes bench on paper. 3-1 to the Blues, I reckon! (4 Englishmen, 3 French, 1 Columbian, 1 Brazilian, 1 Italian, 1 Icelander in my starting XI!)
19 Posted 31/01/2020 at 07:12:19
20 Posted 31/01/2020 at 07:45:01
21 Posted 31/01/2020 at 08:12:00
This game will be a real battle; whoever scores first should win. Let's hope it's the Blues.
22 Posted 31/01/2020 at 08:58:32
23 Posted 31/01/2020 at 09:06:04
24 Posted 31/01/2020 at 09:10:54
Sidibe - Holgate - Mina - Digne
Richarlison - Schneiderlin - Delph - Bernard
Kean - Calvert-Lewin
Subs: Lossl, Keane, Coleman, Sigurdsson, Iwobi, Walcott, Gordon
2-0 Blues, Richarlison and Kean to score.
25 Posted 31/01/2020 at 09:14:26
I wouldn't have them in an over-50s walking football team â€“ they'd slow it down!
26 Posted 31/01/2020 at 10:03:19
27 Posted 31/01/2020 at 10:16:13
28 Posted 31/01/2020 at 10:27:52
I wouldn't even begin to criticise Ancelotti as his CV is unreal but no manager is beyond some questioning.
People say he has little to play with which is partly true but the subs against Newcastle, Brighton and the team selection for the FA Cup derby were all head scratchers for me.
In the derby why did we need three right sided players on the pitch?
At home to Brighton we went ultra defensive and almost suffered, same against Newcastle only we weren't so lucky.
Hopefully lessons have been learned in time for tomorrow.
I don't expect much other than a dull scrap to be honest.
29 Posted 31/01/2020 at 11:11:09
30 Posted 31/01/2020 at 11:13:42
31 Posted 31/01/2020 at 11:43:52
32 Posted 31/01/2020 at 12:04:39
33 Posted 31/01/2020 at 12:55:36
Good to see Richy back, and like the predicted line-up, unfortunately Sigurdsson will come straight back into the team and we won't see Gordon again baring suspensions and midfield injuries.
Will be a tough and ugly match of course, reckon they've already slotted us in for last game on motd, can see this being another draw as we're tough to beat these days, I'll go for an uninspiring 1-1, but I hope I'm wrong. COYB.
35 Posted 31/01/2020 at 14:31:00
36 Posted 31/01/2020 at 14:57:27
It's set up for a Liverpool-Lite performance of balls over the top, putting our CBs under pressure running at our own net. Not our strength!
Keane can not play in this game. And we have to sit stupidly deep.
I think Carlo knows this. This will be a tough one.
37 Posted 31/01/2020 at 16:43:30
38 Posted 31/01/2020 at 16:52:04
39 Posted 31/01/2020 at 17:36:19
If that was Silva that lost to Liverpool's kindergarten club and then made those substitutions against Newcastle, contributing to helping toss the game away, we'd have torn Marco a new one.
Carlo is a fantastic man, intelligent, and his record as a player and manager has been illuminated by endless successes.
No manager however, even the Laughing Cow across the park, should be exempt from questioning when it's laid bare in front of us.
I'm going to put it down to it being early doors for Carlo, maybe he's still getting to know limitations of players and where he can go with certain members of the squad.
Nobody is too old to learn though and I don't think he covered himself in glory with some of those selections and subs.
40 Posted 31/01/2020 at 17:54:31
It's clearly not going to be pretty so let's win the fight against a strong, strapping Watford side and winning the game will follow.
When men were men...
This means no Michael Keane, no Gylfi Sigurdsson, no prefects or suck holes or altar boys or teacher's pets. Just big, massive kahunas on display and let's see what we are made of.
Onward Evertonians. Full support. ðŸ™
41 Posted 31/01/2020 at 18:21:15
42 Posted 31/01/2020 at 18:27:46
Not sure how often Feeney has been with the first team but he's been on more than one video since Carlo came. Same with Gibson. Everton were paying Martina and Niasse but letting them train away from the first team, Carlo has them part of the first team squad. So he knows for himself now.
It'll be interesting to see what 11 days without a game has done for Carlo. He said he prefers a game every three days. But he's had ample time to really assess the squad and make proper alterations.
43 Posted 31/01/2020 at 19:00:20
Ossie and Barks were the exceptions with players signed from lower league clubs showing a far better success rate than our 'own grown'.
44 Posted 31/01/2020 at 19:43:28
45 Posted 31/01/2020 at 19:46:11
46 Posted 01/02/2020 at 00:18:02
47 Posted 01/02/2020 at 00:27:27
A routine victory that we somehow conspire to throw away in the final minute? Because they started the last match and that was the outcome.
(all jokes aside, I have little interest in seeing either on the team sheet, particularly Schneiderlin, but they fared okay last week)
48 Posted 01/02/2020 at 03:21:54
49 Posted 01/02/2020 at 08:29:18
50 Posted 01/02/2020 at 08:45:26
Take your point m8
51 Posted 01/02/2020 at 08:51:26
I'd be tempted to play a lower block with Keane and Mina and Holgate playing in DMC. Sit back a touch, win the long balls and counter quickly with DCL, Kean and Richarlison. Could play Walcott on the right and Richie on the left but hoping Bernie continues his Newcastle form.
Sidibe Keane Mina Digne
Richarlison Sigurdsson Holgate Bernard
52 Posted 01/02/2020 at 08:55:56
Today we need to be brave, but brave on the ball and use Keans pace to get in behind their back line. I think we are playing them at the right time because they have had the new manager bounce and now haven't won in their last 3 in all competitions.
53 Posted 01/02/2020 at 09:01:13
54 Posted 01/02/2020 at 09:28:14
We have the better quality of player, but its at their midden.
A draw would seem to be the most likely outcome.
55 Posted 01/02/2020 at 10:09:15
Hopefully it was a change from the holiday camp it normally has been and we get a team biting at the bit to get at Watford. Mid field will be the deciding factor and I quite frankly haven't a clue who Ancelotti will play in it.
I hope that Ancelotti has further developed the positive forward passing tactics he was trying to instil on the Everton team before the break , rather than the negative possession style as previously. A residue from previous regimes.
Hopefully everyone will stay awake till the final whistle this time.
56 Posted 01/02/2020 at 10:18:44
But keep Deulofeu and Deeney quiet and it will go along way to help us win the game.
57 Posted 01/02/2020 at 10:38:24
58 Posted 01/02/2020 at 10:40:06
59 Posted 01/02/2020 at 11:03:38
60 Posted 01/02/2020 at 11:54:34
61 Posted 01/02/2020 at 12:07:12
62 Posted 01/02/2020 at 12:08:38
63 Posted 01/02/2020 at 12:27:57
64 Posted 01/02/2020 at 12:38:31
They have a tough midfield and could be too strong for Everton's but once again it comes down to the attitude from the off and if they can take the bull by the horns.
Quite a few could be playing for their places next season.
65 Posted 01/02/2020 at 13:30:11
So we need functional performances from the midfield pair. Who? Sigurdsson and Davies.
Richarlison on right and the rest unchanged. I think Holgate in midfield is a red herring. We lose more at not having at centre back than gain playing him in midfield. He's quicker than the others and allows us to play a higher line, â€˜squeeze that midfield'. That's more effective than have him play out of position.
I think we will win, after their huge bounce, Watford have leveled out.
66 Posted 01/02/2020 at 13:40:19
Not wishing to give RS any credit, I stick by my view that this is the weakest Premier EVER. So there !
67 Posted 01/02/2020 at 13:43:11
Everyone should be in peak condition so we should learn Ancelotti's â€˜go-to' starters, at least for this type of opposition, based on what he's learned about his players, subject to Gomes and Gbamin returning.
To my mind, Davies has to start because the other midfielders can't be in the club's long term plans. His partner/partners should be selected on the basis of who compliments him best.
For me I would be playing with a midfield three of Davies, Bernard and Delph or Sigurdsson, depending on the opposition.
Terry Venables has an adage which stands the test of time, and that was; if you can't beat them in midfield, outnumber them.
We've lost the quality and power from our midfield so we have to add numbers.
This formation suits a possession game and provides us triangles all over the pitch; Holgate, Sidibe, Davies out of the right, and Baines, Delph and Digne out of the left, allowing us to outnumber, win-back and build the play while we a) work the Digne/Sidibe overlap/crossing angle, which should be plan A for a team who scores as many headed goals as us; b) hit Bernard in transition, or c) release one of two runners in the channels/off the defender's shoulder.
68 Posted 01/02/2020 at 14:00:51
69 Posted 01/02/2020 at 14:02:06
70 Posted 01/02/2020 at 14:03:35
71 Posted 01/02/2020 at 14:15:05
Everton's failure to win anything of note for 25 years and not having won the league or indeed even competed for it for over 30 years hasn't helped our case. I'm certain that even if we did go on a run of success nothing much would change within the city centre.
Those tourists you speak about are a new breed that weren't around in the 1980s at least not in such numbers but nowadays a trip to the other place is akin to visiting the Albert Hall or similar type attraction - with a game of football an added bonus thrown-in.
72 Posted 01/02/2020 at 14:23:50
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