Updated Everton travel to the south coast to face Brighton on Monday as they rapidly approach the “last chance saloon” where their Champions League hopes are concerned.
Carlo Ancelotti has been realistic about his team's prospects of finishing in the top four this season and described it as “a dream” rather than a goal and the Blues' terrible home form looks likely to put paid to that dream. The draw against Crystal Palace last Monday extended their run to just one win in eight at Goodison Park and left them in eighth place heading into the current round of fixtures.
Results elsewhere, which, so far, have seen Liverpool and Chelsea take all three points, mean that Everton have to beat the Seagulls to ensure that the game in hand they have over the teams above them still carries some weight. However, a victory is also vital if they are to preserve any kind of momentum in terms of the fight for either a Europa League or Europa Conference League place.
As has been the case for weeks now, Ancelotti has injury concerns with which to contend, particularly in midfield. André Gomes won't be involved at the Amex Community Stadium after he tweaked a hamstring in the 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace. The Portuguese had to be withdrawn from the action against the Eagles after just half an hour and Ancelotti confirmed on Friday that the injury will keep him out of the next fixture.
Jordan Pickford is also unlikely to feature after Ancelotti suggested that he is not yet 100%. That will see Robin Olsen continue between the posts.
The manager had better news with regard to Allan and Alex Iwobi, both of whom missed the Palace match with minor problems. Ancelotti said that both had trained normally this week and will have their fitness assessed before a final decision is taken on the matchday squad over the weekend.
Assuming Allan is fit and Jean-Philippe Gbamin isn't to be risked from the start, the Brazilian could be a straight swap for Gomes and Gylfi Sigurdsson could be named among the substitutes again to provide a rare option off what has become a very youthful and inexperienced bench.
James Rodriguez is expected to be fit to play and his role in helping Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison quickly rid themselves of the frustration they experienced with those costly missed chances against Palace has the potential to be crucial.
At the back, there could be changes made to accommodate Ben Godfrey who was left out of the starting XI to make way for Michael Keane to return and reunite with Yerry Mina.
While Everton have struggled to find an identifiable style under Ancelotti, Brighton under Graham Potter have built a reputation for playing free-flowing, highly attractive football, with only the ability to consistently put their chances away up front perhaps standing between them being a top-half side.
That openness is what the Toffees exploited very effectively at Goodison Park in the reverse fixture in October in a 4-2 win despite Potters men playing pretty well on the day and Ancelotti will, no doubt, be looking for a repeat of that performance, one in which James scored twice and ran the show.
Should Everton manage to register what would be just their second home-and-away double of the Premier League campaign, it would also help soften the memory of one of the more painful results of last season when, thanks to an erroneous VAR call and a late Lucas Digne own goal, a fine goal off the bench by Calvert-Lewin went from being a potential winner to a mere consolation in a 3-2 loss.
Kick-off: 8:15pm, Monday 12 April, 2021
Referee: Darren England
VAR: Jon Moss
Last Time: Brighton & Hove Albion 3 - 2 Everton
Predicted Line-up: Olsen, Coleman, Mina, Holgate, Godfrey, Digne, Davies, Allan, Rodriguez, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin