Rafael Benitez’s Everton will look to get their season back on track when they take on Hull City in the FA Cup third round on Saturday.

Everton have endured a difficult start to the season under Rafael Benitez. The Toffees have been knocked out of the Carabao Cup and are well off the pace in gaining a European spot in the Premier League. They will now travel to the MKM Stadium to take on struggling Championship side Hull City in the FA Cup third round. The competition represents Everton’s biggest chance to secure silverware this season.

It will be the first time both sides have faced off in the FA Cup since the 1963/64 season. Everton came out trumps that night, and Benitez will be hoping for a similar outcome this time around. However, the Spaniard has come under intense pressure of late, with Everton having won just one of their last 12 matches in all competitions. Their most recent encounter ended in a 3-2 loss to Brighton & Hove Albion.

Despite Everton’s recent run of form, in Hull, they have a side who are going through a similar rut, having not picked up a win in their last four matches. The Tigers are currently in the 19th spot in the English second tier and are well entrenched in the fight to stave off relegation. Putting them to the sword will hand the Toffees a much-needed boost in confidence going into the second half of the season.

The Hard Tackle looks at how both teams could line up on the night.

Team News & Tactics

Hull City

Grant McCann has several players who are injured or doubtful to feature on the night. The Tigers manager has already confirmed that Mallik Wilks, Josh Magennis and Callum Elder are unavailable. Magennis and Elder were injured in Hull’s 1-0 defeat to Blackpool. The trio will join Alfie Jones, Lewis Coyle and Joshua Emmanuel on the sidelines.

However, it is not all bad news as Matt Ingram, Tom Huddlestone, and Will Jarvis are all back in contention to feature. Hull have won just six Championship games all season and have the second joint-worst attack in the English second tier. While Everton are not exactly famed for their defence, the Tigers attack will need to be at the top of their game to cause the visitors trouble.

McCann looks set to deploy his side in a 3-4-1-2 formation on the night. Nathan Baxter is likely to start in goal behind the back three of Di’Shon Bernard, Jacob Greaves and Sean McLoughlin. Ryan Longman and Keane Lewis-Potter are likely to start out wide as the wing-backs and be entrusted with impressing at both ends of the pitch.

Richard Smallwood and Greg Docherty will be trusted with gaining a foothold in the middle of the park. George Honeyman will be tasked with making forays forward. He will have the primary job of feeding the front two of Tyler Smith and Tom Eaves. Hull have bigger concerns on their mind than putting together a dream run in the FA Cup. Whether they can pull off a shock result remains to be seen.

Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Baxter; Bernard, Greaves, McLoughlin; Lewis-Potter, Smallwood, Docherty, Longman; Honeyman; Eaves, Smith

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Everton

Curiously enough, Everton have won fewer games than Hull in the league this season. Rafael Benitez is an excellent manager, but injuries have hit his side hard in the past few months.

The Spaniard will be without Richarlison, Andros Townsend and Yerry Mina on the night. Jarrad Branthwaite and Fabian Delph are doubtful for the game. Alex Iwobi is at the African Cup of Nations, while Lucas Digne could be set for another spell on the sidelines as his future at the club remains in question.

The FA Cup represents Everton’s best chance of silverware and, in Benitez, they have a manager who has won the competition in the past. The 61-year-old will, however, have his work cut out thanks to his side’s recent run of form.

Everton have already fallen prey to one Championship side this season. Queen Park Rangers defeated them on penalties in the Carabao Cup, and the Toffees will be keen to avoid a repeat against Hull. The game will also give their fans a chance to take their mind off the dismal league form and dream about a potential cup run.

The Merseysiders look set to go into the game with a traditional 4-3-3 formation. Asmir Begovic will start in goal behind a back four of Ben Godfrey, Michael Keane, Mason Holgate and captain Seamus Coleman. January signings Vitaliy Mykolenko and Nathan Patterson may get some minutes off the bench.

Jean-Philippe Gbamin, Allan and Andre Gomes will be tasked with holding the fort in the centre of the park, while Anthony Gordon and Demarai Gray will provide the width. With Dominic Calvert-Lewin unlikely to be risked, Salomon Rondon is likely to start as the centre-forward on the night. Everton go into the game as favourites, and coming away with a win could do wonders for their confidence in the second half of the season.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Begovic; Coleman, Holgate, Keane, Godfrey; Gbamin, Gomes, Allan; Gordon, Rondon, Gray

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Key Stats

  • Everton and Hull City have not faced each other in the FA  Cup since 1963. The former won the game 2-1 in the replay.
  • Everton have won four of their last seven games against Hull City.
  • Hull City are winless in their last 18 games against top-flight opposition in the FA Cup while being outside the Premier League themselves.
  • Everton have lost their last three FA Cup clashes away from home. Losing to Hull will see them set an unwanted club record.
  • Everton have won just two of their last 15 matches across all competitions.

Player to Watch

Demarai Gray

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The winger is a tour de force on his day and has shown fleeting glimpses of his undoubted potential under Rafa Benitez this season. Secured for a throwaway price in the summer, Gray has gone on to enjoy a fine few months at Goodison Park.

Possessing pace, power, directness and an eye for goal, the 25-year-old packs a punch both from a distance and also when running at the opposition. The Hull defence is far from formidable and could struggle to shackle the winger should he start brightly. It will come as no surprise if Everton’s best moves on the night flow through him.

Prediction

Hull City 0-2 Everton

While both sides are coming into the match following a poor run of form, Everton have the better manager and team on the night. The Toffees are in desperate need of a win, and putting the Tigers on the back foot could act as a morale booster.

Everton are yet to be termed an organized side and will take some time to mirror their manager’s vision. But getting one over Hull in the cup tie could bring back that winning feeling for the Merseysiders, setting them up to go on a positive run.

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