So here we go again as Everton travel to Yorkshire to take on Sheffield United at Brammel Lane in their penultimate Premier League fixture.
Given the paucity of performances from this Everton team recently, I am struggling to muster up a lot of enthusiasm for this match.
And the fact that the Blues are facing a United team that is still in contention for European football, while the Toffees have nothing to play for but points, is a telling testament to this latest season of chronic underachievement.
No disrespect to the Blades, who have enjoyed a terrific campaign back in the Premier League, but in truth it should be Everton who are in the mix for a European place, shouldn’t it? Well how many times have we said that during this season.
Is it beyond all reasonableness to ask that these players find some reserves of energy and commitment to the shirt and give Evertonians a decent performance tomorrow night?
Going into the game, the Blues are missing three players with two defenders out, both Mason Holgate and Yerry Mina, and midfielder Fabain Delph, (remember him??), who are all out for the remainder of the season
I’m not so bothered that Mina is unavailable, and Delph hasn’t played for months, but Holgate’s absence is a blow obviously. However, it should mean that Jarrad Branthwaite gets another chance to impress at centre-back.
He will need to be strong tomorrow night as United are a powerful, physical team who create a lot of chances through set-piece play and crosses.
The Yorkshire side have generally thrived since winning promotion, playing no-nonsense football and like to put teams under a lot of pressure through a direct old-fashioned style.
They also seem to be good at raising their game when playing sides who are on paper anyway, better. Not that they’ll likely need to do that against this Blues team.
Unlike Everton, United still have something to play for this season and I would expect them to produce a strong effort against a team I think they will be confident of beating.
And the Blades are also going for a league double over Everton having deservedly beaten the Toffees earlier in the season at Goodison Park.
United actually have several Everton outcasts on their books in Muhammed Besic and Jack Rodwell, who is surely one of the wasted talents of the last decade or so. In addition Phil Jagielka has also gone back to his first club to add some experience and nous in defence.
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So they will provide a strong test of the Blues players’ concentration, character and resilience. Well those aren’t exactly qualities this set of individuals have exhibited much over the course of this campaign, are they?
Thinking then of who might play for the Toffees tomorrow, once again I’d like to make a plea for Carlo Ancelotti to pick some of his young, fringe players.
What is the point of continuing to play individuals like Alex Iwobi, Tom Davies, Gylifi Sigurdsson or even Andre Gomes? After all we know what we’re going to get, or not get, out them.
I’d also like to see Anthony Gordon get another start as he’s been frankly the only midfield player who’s looked interested and committed in recent matches. So let’s see a few new faces get a chance to show what they can do. I’m not sure whether Ancelotti will heed my advice, probably not, but we will see.
I should be able to approach this match preview thinking with some degree of confidence that Everton will get something from the game. But I can’t and to be honest I don’t see anything but a Blades win tomorrow night, unless the Blues can really step up.