Another test for Dyche's squad as Everton face Fulham in Carabao Cup quarter-final

After another throughly derserved win away at Burnley on Sunday afternoon the Blues host Fulham in the Carabao Cup tomorrow evening.
Everton v Fulham
Everton v Fulham / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

Everton secured their fourth consecutive Premier League win at the weekend as they comfortably defeated the Clarets two-nil at Turf Moor.

Now, comes the return of the League Cup competition with the Toffees in their first quarter-final since 2016 as the Cottagers return to Goodison Park.

There are perhaps two ways to look at this game. On the one hand it could be seen as a distraction taking the team's focus away from the league after such a fine run of results.

It is also another match that will further test the strength-in-depth and durability of Sean Dyche's small squad of players.

That isssue was once again brought into focus against Burnley with the absence of three of the manager's defenders and a key midfielder stretching his resources.

Then, before the game at Turf Moor came the news that Vitalii Mykolenko would also miss out after he picked up an injury late on in the side's preparations.

So, Dyche was forced into an unexpected re-jig of his team tactically with the side reverting to a back-three of James Tarkowski, Micheal Keane and Ben Godfrey.

As it was the two players who came into the defence performed very well with Keane - who had himself only returned from a knock recently and who I had been dreading seeing back in the side - scoring too against his former team.

However, while that was a very welcome sign of the positive change that certainly seems to be taking root in this Everton team under Dyche's leadership, it is still concerning.

Although both Jarrad Branthwaite and Idrissa Gueye are available again after seeing out their one-match bans, Dyche is still potentially missing Seamus Coleman, Ashley Young, Mykolenko and Abdoulaye Doucoure who was withdrawn at Burnley feeling a tight hamstring.

And while the Carabao Cup is a great chance of possbily getting to a Wembley final, which the Toffees haven't managed since 2009, for club's with bigger squads it might also usually be a chance to rest a few players.

Dyche can still do that but he is limited in terms of options if he wants to try and rest a few of the starters who have played so much football over the last few weeks.

Having said all that I think he will obviously pick a strong side given that this represents probably the Blues best chance of getting to a final this season.

And, a run to Wembley would certainly be a great way to underline all the progress that this Everton team have made under Dyche.

Their opponents had been on a decent run of form themselves with two consecutive five-nil wins at home against Nottingham Forest and West Ham before last weekend's defeat at Newcastle United.

Traditionally, the Cottagers don't though travel well when visting Merseyside, either to Everton or Liverpool, and hadn't ever won at the Grand Old Lady until the 2020-21 campaign.

But they picked up three points on the opening day of this season at Goodison too, after the Toffees squandered a slew of chances only to lose late on.

Since that day in August, Everton have improved up front and have been taking their chances much more consistently, although they still do miss more than they ideally should.

While the retun of Dominic Calvert-Lewin to full fitness and Beto finally opening his account in the league has helped, it has been the contributions of players from other parts of the pitch that have been critical here, as we saw again on Sunday.

Most of all, Doucoure, who has been transformed into something of a midfield goalscoring machine playing in a more advanced, attacking role since Dyche took over.

This was something I had advocated for from early on in the former Burnley's boss's tenure and he now has six this season already. His absence tomorrow then would be a blow.

With the Goodison Park hoodoo that afflicted this team recently seemingly over now (I hope I'm not talking too soon!) hopefully Everton will see off Fulham and reach that semi-final. Then who knows?