A tactical battle is set to ensue at Goodison Park on Saturday as Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton take on Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United.
The influx of top managers across the world in the Premier League has given us some of the most enticing tactical battles in recent years. And on Saturday, fans will brace themselves for another such event as Carlo Ancelotti-led Everton play hosts to Leeds United at the Goodison Park.
Both the teams have had similar fortunes this season, starting the campaign on a positive note before drifting off a little. For Everton, things have gone south since the suspension of Richarlison, though last weekend, the Toffees secured their first win in four matches when they edged newly-promoted Fulham 3-2 at Craven Cottage.
The three points helped the Merseyside giants remain in the top six. But with Aston Villa and Manchester United pushing forward, a victory could be imperative this weekend. Ancelotti, however, will be well aware of the threat Leeds United possess, with the Whites having emerged as arguably the most entertaining team in the Premier League so far this campaign.
Only Fulham and West Brom have conceded more goals than Leeds United this season, but their tally of 14 goals scored remains the highest in the bottom half of the table. They are, however, coming on the back of a goalless draw with Arsenal in the last game.
The Yorkshire giants are also winless in their last three league matches, so it’s not unreasonable to believe that the visitors will be eyeing all three points. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the two sides in what will be a fierce tactical battle between two of the most experienced coaches in the Premier League at the moment.
Team News & Tactics
Everton welcomed Richarlison back from suspension last weekend but have suffered a major setback this week as key defender Lucas Digne picked up an injury in training. The left-back could be out for two to three months.
Ancelotti is already missing out on the services of one key full-back in Seamus Coleman due to a hamstring injury while Jonjoe Kenny, though fit to feature on Saturday, is not 100%. It means we are likely to see Alex Iwobi continue at right wing-back while the young Niels Nkounkou is set to be drafted in as a deputy for Digne on the opposite flank.
There should be no changes elsewhere in defence, as the defensive trifecta of Yerry Mina, Michael Keane and new signing Ben Godfrey look to provide cover for goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
Ancelotti, during his pre-match press conference, has confirmed that midfielder Jean-Philippe Gbamin should return to the pitch within two to three weeks. In the meantime, however, we are likely to witness Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan forming the double-pivot, with Andre Gomes, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Tom Davies serving as potential alternatives.
There should be no changes in the attack either as the wide offensive duo of James Rodriguez and Richarlison look to provide the supply for the main striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Pickford; Godfrey, Keane, Mina; Iwobi, Doucoure, Allan, Nkounkou; James, Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison
Leeds United were boosted by the return of Kalvin Phillips last weekend and might now welcome Rodrigo Moreno back into the starting lineup after the Spaniard missed the past few matches due to Covid-19. The return of another Spaniard in Pablo Hernandez, however, seems unlikely at this point.
So Rodrigo should slot into the attacking midfield position alongside Mateusz Klich while Phillips should retain his place in the number six slot. There might be a change in formation given the fact that the return of Rodrigo could force Bielsa to bench Ezgjan Alioski, so a 4-1-4-1 could be in order.
Elsewhere in the attack, Jack Harrison is a guaranteed starter, having emerged as one of Leeds United’s best players this season. There likely won’t be any change on the opposite flank either with Raphinha once again starting ahead of Helder Costa. These two will look to provide adequate supply to Patrick Bamford.
In defence, Leeds United are still missing out on new signing Diego Llorente. That means Bielsa has no option but to persist with the central defensive duo of Robin Koch and Liam Cooper while Luke Ayling and Stuart Dallas are set to occupy the full-back positions.
These four players looked much better defensively against Arsenal last weekend but will be fully aware of Everton’s attacking prowess. So they need to be on their toes, along with the young Illan Meslier in goal.
Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Meslier; Ayling, Koch, Cooper, Dallas; Phillips; Raphinha, Klich, Rodrigo, Harrison; Bamford
- Everton vs Leeds – Both Teams to Score – YES @ 1.53
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- Everton are unbeaten in their last 13 top-flight home games against Leeds United since a 3-2 loss in August 1990. In the Premier League, the Toffees have only faced Fulham at Goodison Park more often without defeat (14) than Leeds (12).
- Leeds United won their last meeting with Everton in all competitions, winning 2-1 in a League Cup tie in September 2012. Their last league victory against the Toffees came in December 2001.
- Everton have kept a clean sheet in eight of their last ten home league games against Leeds United: they’re looking to win three league games in a row at home against the Whites for the first time since December 1951.
- Everton lost their last Premier League home against Manchester United; they’ve not lost consecutive home league games since September 2019, which involved defeats against a side from Manchester (Man City) and a Yorkshire club (Sheffield United).
- In their first four Premier League games this season, Leeds United had 45 shots (11.3 per game), scoring nine goals with a conversion rate of 20%. In their last five league games, they’ve had 85 shots (17 per game), but have scored just five goals with a conversion rate of just 6%.
Player to Watch
▫️ Variation in positions
▫️ Understanding of tactics
▫️ Hernandez's long-term heir?@PhilHay_ and @TheSquareBall praise Raphinha's impact + are joined by @Zonal_Marking to talk Bielsa's influence and legacy… #LUFC
𝑷𝒐𝒅𝒄𝒂𝒔𝒕 𝑯𝒐𝒖𝒓 🎙️ 𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗣𝗛𝗜𝗟 𝗛𝗔𝗬 𝗦𝗛𝗢𝗪
— The Athletic UK (@TheAthleticUK) November 27, 2020
Raphinha has been an unfortunate fellow since joining Leeds United in the summer. He has gone under the radar due to a relatively impressive start from the likes of Helder Costa and Jack Harrison, but with the former experiencing a little dip in form, the ex-Rennes winger was notably handed a start last weekend.
Although Raphinha’s contributions weren’t enough to breach the Gunners’ backline, the Brazilian is more than likely to retain his place in the starting lineup. If anything, he might be way more effective this weekend due to the return of Rodrigo, who is capable of not only linking up with teammates in the final third but also finding the back of the net.
Moreover, it is fair to point out that Everton are missing Digne, so Raphinha could really enjoy a field day on the right flank on Saturday. We are indeed banking on him to emerge as the game-changer in this fixture.
Everton 2-2 Leeds United
Leeds United have lacked the efficiency going forward in recent weeks, but with Phillips and Rodrigo returning, we can expect them to be much more effective, especially against an Everton backline that is missing two of their premier full-backs. However, a lack of discipline and a high-risk pressing game could once again leave the Whites vulnerable at the back so we are expecting a high scoring draw.