After Pep Guardiola waltzed past his apprentice and Southampton brushed aside a naive Norwich outfit, Manchester United’s trip to Tottenham on Friday night confirmed one thing: the Premier League is well and truly back, baby.
An intriguing tactical battle which enthralled with its chaotic end-to-end conclusion was exactly what English football fans had missed for the past three months, and there’s plenty more to come.
The standout fixture in this weekend’s action is undoubtedly the Merseyside derby on Sunday evening, with Manchester City’s victory over Arsenal on Wednesday confirming Liverpool will have to wait just a wee bit longer to establish themselves as champions – much to the delight of Evertonians.
The Toffees had shown serious signs of progression under Carlo Ancelotti before the break, despite being soundly beaten by an exuberant Chelsea side 4-0 in their last competitive fixture. Their return clash doesn’t get much bigger and tougher for Don Carlo.
Here’s the personnel he should select in his 4-4-2 for Sunday’s derby.
Jordan Pickford (GK) – Sure, he’s struggled at times this season, but there’s no doubting he’ll be lining up between the sticks in this one. Pickford’s played every single minute of Everton’s Premier League campaign thus far. A shoo-in.
Djibril Sidibe (RB) – Undoubtedly a maverick talent, Sidibe isn’t the sort of full back who instils confidence among a fan base. He’s got a lot of Serge Aurier about him. Nevertheless, he’s certainly capable of producing a bit of magic and has been favoured over the more reliable Seamus Coleman.
Mason Holgate (CB) – The 23-year-old’s development this season has been impressive, becoming a mainstay in Carletto’s backline. While a sound reader of the game and blessed with a nifty turn of pace, it’s his capabilities in possession which make him a key cog in Ancelotti’s Everton.
Michael Keane (CB) – Yerry Mina’s absence will thrust Keane straight back into the mix. The England international has been used sporadically since Ancelotti’s arrival but will have a big chance to prove his worth between now and the end of the campaign.
Lucas Digne (LB) – A consistent performer ever since he stepped foot on Merseyside, Digne’s capabilities at both ends of the pitch have seen him establish himself as one of the division’s standout left backs. The Frenchman may well be the man to exploit Trent Alexander-Arnold’s forays into the Toffees third on Sunday.
Bernard (RM) – Typically utilised on the left, the tricky Bernard may have to drift out to the opposite flank in this one as a result of Theo Walcott’s injury. The addition of the free agent in the summer of 2018 has proved to be an astute bit of business on Everton’s behalf; his five goal contributions in just over 1,000 minutes of action this season is a respectable return.
Andre Gomes (CM) – The miracle man has been declared fit for this one after picking up a knock in training, which is a huge boost for Ancelotti. The Portuguese midfielder impressed following his swift return in February, with his tactical intelligence and aggression in the pressing game set to serve him well in a midfield two under the Italian.
Tom Davies (CM) – With Fabian Delph and Jean-Philippe Gbamin both out, it’s between Davies and Morgan Schneiderlin for the second spot in midfield, but we’ve gone with the former. Sure, his career hasn’t developed in the way Everton fans would’ve liked after his MOTM display against City back in 2017, but he’s nonetheless a tidy player who’ll provide dynamism and a bit of bite in midfield. Perfect for a derby.
Gylfi Sigurdsson (LM) – It’s been a torrid campaign for poor old Gylfi, with his three goal contributions in over 2,000 minutes of Premier League action a sorry return for a player of his creative prowess. Despite his struggles, he remains Everton’s chief creator and could be deployed in an inverted role in this one, allowing Digne greater space to maraud down the left.
Richarlison (ST) – The Brazilian’s mouth has ensured things might get just a wee bit tasty on Sunday evening despite the absence of fans, with the battle between himself and Virgil van Dijk poised to be an enthralling one. Nevertheless, Richarlison’s thrived in a freer role behind Dominic Calvert-Lewin, while his directness, impressive technique and intelligent movement have seen him score ten times in the Premier League this term.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin (ST) – Talk about a renaissance, eh? Calvert-Lewin’s been in imperious form since Marco Silva’s December departure, with ten of his 13 league goals this season coming after Duncan Ferguson and Ancelotti took the reins. How the atypical target man combines with Richarlison will be pivotal in the derby.