It’s fair to say that there is an unsettled atmosphere at Everton currently. There are questions surrounding the long-term future of manager Sam Allardyce, as well as fan unrest regarding the club’s dismal away form this season.
Although not mathematically safe, a 10-point gap from the bottom three with just eight games remaining this season will surely be enough for Everton to see off the threat of relegation that loomed large at times during this campaign.
Speaking of relegation, Saturday’s opponents, Stoke City, are in desperate need of three points this weekend with The Potters currently sitting in 19th place in the Premier League table.
However, from The Toffees’ point of view, another disappointing defeat away from home will only intensify the pressure on Allardyce and lead to more discontent amongst the supporters.
‘Big Sam’ has regularly made numerous changes to his starting line-up during his Everton tenure.
This weekend will be no different with the former England manager facing a potential selection headache with a whole host of players set to miss Saturday’s game.
Idrissa Gueye missed last week’s victory over Brighton through sickness, while Theo Walcott was forced off during the match with an injury, although both are expected to available for selection against Stoke.
One player who will definitely miss out this weekend is Gylfi Sigurdsson, who joins James McCarthy on the long-term injury list after picking up a knee injury at Goodison Park last week.
The Icelandic midfielder is expected to be sidelined for 6-8 weeks, although Allardyce has rubbished these reports and claimed that he expects Sigurdsson to play for the Blues again this season.
Whether or not Sigurdsson will return during the current campaign remains to be seen, but he will certainly be unavailable this weekend and his potential replacements have been a hot topic of conversation at the club this week.
With the expected return of Idrissa Gueye in the heart of Everton’s midfield, it could be as simple as pushing either Tom Davies or Wayne Rooney into a more advanced position to fill the void left by Sigurdsson.
Although a number of other candidates will also be hoping for an opportunity to impress while the Icelandic midfielder is absent.
The likes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Nikola Vlasic are two young and hungry players who are always looking to make a strong impression whenever they get minutes on the pitch.
Vlasic has caught the eye at times this season but has been unable to hold down a regular place in the side.
Meanwhile, Calvert-Lewin has been a constant presence in the team and can fill a variety of positions.
The U-20 World Cup winner could either play as a striker alongside Cenk Tosun or in behind the Turkish centre-forward in a ‘number 10’ role or as a winger.
However, the majority of Toffees fans seem to be calling for summer signing Davy Klaassen to be given another chance.
The former Ajax captain has fallen way short of expectations during his first campaign with the Blues.
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But despite this, he was given a warm reception from the Goodison Park crowd when he was re-introduced to the side from the bench during last week’s win over Brighton.
The unfortunate injury suffered by Sigurdsson could open the door for Klaassen and give him the opportunity to repay the faith shown by the fans.
As well as showcase the qualities that convinced Everton to pay over £20 million for him at the start of the season.
While nobody is happy to see Gylfi sidelined, his absence could prove to be a blessing in disguise if it allows a determined Davy Klaassen, with a point to prove, to get minutes on the pitch.
This coupled with the recent returns of Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines could give Everton new impetus and just maybe, could lead to a long overdue away win against Stoke this Saturday.