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Mason Holgate could be recalled to a central defensive trio after starting the Bournemouth game on the bench
Everton make the trip to the Riverside for a Premier League game for the first time in just over eight years as they take on relegation-threatened Middlesbrough.
The Blues are looking to extend their recent unbeaten run in the Premier League to eight games which should maintain the pressure on the top six and keep alive the threat of closing further what was a nine-point gap. Indeed, Everton come into the weekend sitting just seven points off the Champions League places with 14 games left and 42 points up for grabs.
Based on his latest comments to the print media, Ronald Koeman is remaining realistic while allowing himself to see opportunity if Everton can keep winning and the sides above them stumble but it's matches like this weekend's trip to the Riverside Stadium that are going to be key to his team's chances.
The Blues have dropped vital points at the likes of Bournemouth, Burnley and Watford and Southampton — had they taken a draw in those four games, they would be sitting just one point behind Manchester United, the current occupants of sixth place — but if they can start collecting wins against bottom-half sides between now and the end of the season, then a finish in the European places is not out of the question.
“Everything's possible,” the Dutchman said in his press conference yesterday when asked whether he thought Everton could sneak into the top four by the end of the season. “Everybody knows the Premier League is so tough. It's not about the opponent that you need to play.
“Look at Hull — they played Man United away, they played Liverpool at home and they have four points out of that. Every game is difficult and maybe our game this Saturday is maybe more difficult than Tottenham away.
“In my experience in the Premier League is sometimes you get more points from playing top-six teams than against teams that are fighting relegation. I won't make the mistake of thinking this weekend is different because it's a really tough one.
“It's all about yourself. The best way to be successful is always the [next] game; don't look further on because it's not important. What's important is now, who we play now.
“It's a difficult one because they're fighting for the points to stay in the Premier League and we know they can be really tough.”
Middlesbrough may have won just four league games since they returned to the top flight and sit just two points above the relegation zone as a result but, as Spurs found out last weekend, they can very tough to beat because they don't concede many goals.
Indeed, they have the same defensive record as Everton coming into this weekend's meeting having let in 14 less than the next best defence among their rivals to beat the drop. Since losing 3-0 at home to Liverpool in mid-December, they've conceded at a rate of one goal a game at the Riverside, which suggests that, just as was the case at Crystal Palace and Stoke recently, Koeman's men will face a team that is difficult to break down.
As the Reds and West Ham have shown, however, if you can get at them early and score within the first half-hour or so, then your task becomes that much easier. In that respect, avoiding the early lapses that almost allowed Christian Benteke to head Palace ahead after eight minutes last month or the one that gifted Peter Crouch the chance to score his 100th goal around the same point of the game at the bet365 Stadium will be crucial for Everton's chances.
Encouragingly for the Toffees, if they can get off the mark first, Boro don't score many either — their return of 19 goals is the lowest in the Premier League and almost a third of them have been scored by Alvaro Negredo.
Once again, Evertonian eyes will be on the team sheet when it is announced an hour before kick off because, with the manager having options at his disposal in all areas of the pitch, there could be more changes to the starting XI, particularly in midfield.
Idrissa Gueye will be fully rested following his return from Africa Cup of Nations duty and Tom Davies will be champing at the bit to start but both will have to battle their way past the trio that started last Saturday. Rumours that James McCarthy was forced off against Bournemouth last weekend with a recurrence of his hamstring injury have not been substantiated and his fitness did not come up in the manager's presser but he will have done his chances of being selected again no harm with an assist and goal in the 6-3 win.
Morgan Schneiderlin, meanwhile, offered plenty of evidence to suggest that he could become a vital cog in the Blues' machine with his versatility and ability to move the ball around in the centre of the park.
In defence, a return to the back three system that Koeman dispensed with for all but the last 10 minutes against Bournemouth is on the cards, which could mean a recall for Mason Holgate. Further forward, after being handed his full debut and showing some wonderful moments going forward, Ademola Lookman will likely drop back to the bench, with Kevin Mirallas the probable beneficiary.
Kick-off: 3pm, Saturday 11 February 2017
Referee: Mike Dean
Last Time: Middlesbrough 0 - 1 Everton (26 December 2008)
Predicted Line-up: Robles, Holgate, Williams, Funes Mori, Coleman, Baines, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Barkley, Mirallas, Lukaku.
Full details: ToffeeWeb match page
Reader Comments (108)
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1 Posted 10/02/2017 at 00:29:25
2 Posted 10/02/2017 at 00:58:08
Negredo is quality but he relies on service from Ramirez and Downing, who can be smothered by our midfield... which is why it's time for Gueye to come back in the side, with Davies and Macca having to step aside for this week.
Interesting midfield matchup: Barkley versus our old boy Forshaw.
3 Posted 10/02/2017 at 01:09:54
No reason we shouldn't keep a clean sheet, find the back of the net at least once and bank the full three points, but it may be a bit of a grind.
4 Posted 10/02/2017 at 01:57:55
Otherwise, I'd be pretty happy with Lyndon's starting line-up but would be equally with a 4-3-3 and Davies coming in for Holgate to start in midfield with Schneiderlin and Gueye. I think those 3 could be quite the midfield trio!
5 Posted 10/02/2017 at 03:19:29
I agree with Lyndon, I think we should go three at the back to give us width in an attacking sense with Coleman & Baines; but let's hope Traore does not get in behind us.
6 Posted 10/02/2017 at 04:17:12
I imagine this will be a low scoring affair so the first goal could win it.
7 Posted 10/02/2017 at 06:42:25
Believe, fight. Please lord, hear my prayer!... Lukaku, Mirallas, Barkley to keep the goals flowing and a clean sheet. COYB. We can keep this winning momentum. Keep Clinical; Koeman's Killers.
8 Posted 10/02/2017 at 06:52:21
I hope he does start to make the bench. Him, Sambou and Calvert-Lewin between them should give us some hope of finding a striking option behind Lukaku.
9 Posted 10/02/2017 at 06:54:03
10 Posted 10/02/2017 at 07:37:26
The bench will probably be:
Stekelenburg, Jagielka, Barry, McCarthy, Lennon, Lookman, Valencia.
I'd actually prefer Donkor or Kenny on the bench, instead of Lennon, to be honest.
The line-up allows us to bring on what we need, when we need it, off the bench also. Jagielka, Barry & McCarthy to finish the game off with a bit of experience & calmness. Or change the game, with a bit of energy & skill through Lookman & Valencia. Or give a chance to a youngster if the situation allows it.
I like Mirallas's work ethic on defense that's why I'd go with him over Lookman.
11 Posted 10/02/2017 at 07:38:01
Hope we can keep ball and create without Barry.
12 Posted 10/02/2017 at 07:59:43
The key is the first goal; if we score it, they have to come at us, leaving space for quick counter-attacks. If they score it, they will sit deep with two banks and encourage us to look for crosses as opposed to playing through them. They are good in the air in defence.
As the manager says, while being realistic, we can put a run together who knows where we can finish. Good to see the ambition back in the Evertonian ranks, a lot of our fans talking top 5 or 6. The improvement in the team has encouraged this, we are heading in the right direction.
13 Posted 10/02/2017 at 08:45:04
Yes Boro are quite tough defensively but the goalscoring return and win ratio is abysmal from a reason, they have won four games all season and the highest ranked side they have beaten is Bournemouth.
To me that says it all about their lack of quality and we need to make our class tell and not get involved in a scrap, get an early advantage to really put them on the back foot and we should be able to pick them off on the break after that.
We had a real wobble against the likes of Watford, Bournemouth away, Burnley (fair enough, they are good at home) but we can't afford another at Middlesbrough, we need to go there tomorrow and get the win.
14 Posted 10/02/2017 at 09:12:51
15 Posted 10/02/2017 at 09:28:22
Pennington also featured in the first team training video but seems they particularly edited Donkor into it. May just be coincidence but if he has impressed Koeman then perhaps he might make the bench tomorrow or sometime soon.
16 Posted 10/02/2017 at 09:52:22
3 nice points, bring on Sunderland. Repeat.
17 Posted 10/02/2017 at 09:53:52
He starts for me, but it depends which system Koeman decides to start with.
18 Posted 10/02/2017 at 10:02:15
Hopefully not. Nothing is guaranteed in the Premier League as an out of form Watford showed at the Emirates last weekend.
They are solid in defense and many people were advocating Negredo this Summer but I think if we work hard and show the sort of improved movement and tenacity that we have been in the last month or so then we've got a decent chance. Concentrate at the back coz that first goal will probably be vital!
19 Posted 10/02/2017 at 10:14:24
Schneiderlin was a luxury signing brought about by his previous association with Koeman. I hope he proves worth all that money!
20 Posted 10/02/2017 at 10:26:09
Still hoping for 3 points.
21 Posted 10/02/2017 at 10:30:35
The Blues aren't great at getting at teams that sit back so it's hugely important not to concede early. A potential banana skin no doubt but one we should win.
22 Posted 10/02/2017 at 10:53:14
23 Posted 10/02/2017 at 10:56:35
I wouldn't be surprised to see a Barry-less bench for this one; Jags covers the defense (though Barry could in a back 3), McCarthy & Davies would 'get-at' Boro if we needed to more than he would, and in Schneiderlin we now have the calming influence if needed. Add that to a couple of attackers & a keeper and there's no room! Lennon also now covers the wing-back roles and the front three.
Subs: Stekelenburg, Jagielka, McCarthy, Davies, Lookman, Valencia, Lennon.
24 Posted 10/02/2017 at 10:57:22
But calling Schneiderlin a luxury? No mate, he is the best midfielder now on our books, Gana included. Whether or not he was a priority signing is another debate but he has more class than anyone in midfield as much as I love them all. If we want to go places, let's buy better players.
26 Posted 10/02/2017 at 11:16:29
27 Posted 10/02/2017 at 11:53:20
I wouldn't worry about Davies, he will get plenty of game time whether starting or off the bench. This will be Barry's final season I suspect.
I would go Schneiderlin, McCarthy and Davies tomorrow but I think it will be Barry instead of Davies.
I'm sure he will replace Lookman with either Mirallas or Holgate depending on formation.
28 Posted 10/02/2017 at 12:19:49
29 Posted 10/02/2017 at 12:24:20
30 Posted 10/02/2017 at 12:36:25
We now have so many good CMs on form that we can rest Gana and still beat Bournemouth 6-3 where I thought we would struggle to break them down.
I am surprised at all this talk of Donkor being promoted to the first squad. I thought he was just a backup for the U23s but has he done very well there?
31 Posted 10/02/2017 at 12:44:14
32 Posted 10/02/2017 at 12:45:19
I wouldn't start with Mirallas as the width would come from Baines and Coleman. Barkley being given a free role in support of Lukaku.
33 Posted 10/02/2017 at 12:52:41
35 Posted 10/02/2017 at 12:57:34
True, that would be quite typical of Everton.
That is indeed puzzling. We have enough quality in the first team and apart from that, Besic is almost fit and Gana has returned from AFCON. Therefore I don't see any place for the U23s on the first team bench.
To be honest, Williams hasn't been that poor, and of all four centre-backs, he's been the most consistent. Boro away is a potential banana skin, so I for one wouldn't risk unbalancing the Holgate - Williams - Funes Mori trio and especially not by playing Pennington, who for all his qualities hasn't played a minute this season for the first team.
36 Posted 10/02/2017 at 13:00:21
Our options coming off the bench into midfield are now fantastic. The energy and ability that we can now bring on in the 2nd half will be frightening and a real game changer.
Imagine being tackled and run ragged by Gueye and Schneiderlin for 60 mins to then see McCarthy and Davies come and continue the battering (not forgetting Barry).
I think we are in for an exciting run-in. Our boys are fit, focused, and hungry.
37 Posted 10/02/2017 at 13:24:59
38 Posted 10/02/2017 at 13:33:21
39 Posted 10/02/2017 at 13:42:24
40 Posted 10/02/2017 at 13:44:37
41 Posted 10/02/2017 at 13:46:19
42 Posted 10/02/2017 at 13:52:09
43 Posted 10/02/2017 at 13:58:32
44 Posted 10/02/2017 at 14:02:33
45 Posted 10/02/2017 at 14:03:25
46 Posted 10/02/2017 at 14:06:50
47 Posted 10/02/2017 at 14:17:05
48 Posted 10/02/2017 at 14:18:57
49 Posted 10/02/2017 at 14:27:13
52 Posted 10/02/2017 at 15:33:23
53 Posted 10/02/2017 at 15:38:02
Middlesbrough are a hard team to break down; they defend well. This will be a different sort of test to Bournemouth; it will be very close... we always find it hard to break these kind of teams down.
If we have any chance of getting into the top four or five, we need to win this type of game. COYB
55 Posted 10/02/2017 at 15:50:59
Meanwhile our boys have been snarling their way through intense training sessions, growing another layer of skin against the cold.
I wonder who will be better prepared on Saturday...?
Cue the biggest away win of the season.
56 Posted 10/02/2017 at 16:12:40
You would think we need Europe to entice any top players to Goodison in the summer. And keeping the big man up front fit is key. He is on fire at the moment.
European footy and the golden boot winner next season... We can only dream, can't we?
57 Posted 10/02/2017 at 16:51:22
With Ireland in rugby at 2:30, Everton 3pm, Liverpool 5:30 and then my GAA team Tyrone v Dublin at 7pm, it will be a busy Saturday.
58 Posted 10/02/2017 at 16:52:55
In this type of atmosphere, Everton cannot afford the luxury of Mirallas starting, because you don't know if he will put a shift in. Asking Lookman to start may be too much for him.
Everton should start with Robles in goal and a back 3 of Holgate, Williams and Funes Mori.
In midfield, Everton should have Baines and Coleman as wing backs alongside Gueye, Davies, Barkley and McCarthy. Upfront should be Lukaku. Davies and Barkley should team up to support Lukaku, as the lone striker.
So far this season, Gueye and McCarthy have shown they have been the best midfield pairing, because they get in the face of the opposition.
59 Posted 10/02/2017 at 17:04:18
"With Ireland in rugby at 2:30, Everton 3pm, Liverpool 5:30 and then my GAA team Tyrone v Dublin at 7pm it will be a busy Saturday."
Struth, when do you find time to do the washing and ironing?
60 Posted 10/02/2017 at 17:14:10
I'm a blue from Boro so can meet at the ground or a pub.
61 Posted 10/02/2017 at 17:51:30
I can't believe all the hype about Schneiderlin. To my eyes, he is still settling in and plays far too deep although I can't see him being dropped as he seems to be a leader on the pitch.
Tom Davies has been all we needed and more so for me he would be a definite shoo-in and Gueye as our midfield dynamo has no peers so time to give James a rest and make Barry a benchwarmer (no disrespect intended).
Three at the back seems to suit Seamus and Bainesy so it's Barkley and Rom up front.
62 Posted 10/02/2017 at 17:51:53
Pennington is coming off a loooong injury layoff and only recently rejoined the U23s. He was brilliant (according to Unsy) in the win over Arsenal this week but he's nowhere near ready for first-team football. Maybe in the spring?
Craig (#5), you're right, I overlooked Traore, but given his part-time status and complete lack of productivity (per Paul #22), he's easy to overlook. Royston Drenthe who, BTW, is now listed as "retired" at 29 was a scoring machine compared to Traore.
63 Posted 10/02/2017 at 18:03:53
Schneiderlin I thought, though deep, was excellent against Stoke. He sat in there and displayed great knowledge and passing (mostly!).
Against Bournemouth he was impressive in the first half. But the whole midfield lost their way a bit first 20 mins of the second half. The introduction of Davies coincided with us getting back control.
For me, I'd go for Schneiderlin - Gana - Davies as a middle 3 where possible. We do need to not overplay Davies though but when you've also got McCarthy and Barry, what a great choice to come in.
64 Posted 10/02/2017 at 18:31:27
65 Posted 10/02/2017 at 18:33:04
66 Posted 10/02/2017 at 19:28:11
Ross gets the nod up top with Rom. As long as we win the ball high up the field Ross with be okay there. Should we pick Barry and or McCarthy, we are likely to be deeper; Ross would drop deeper and we know often Rom becomes and island.
They've not won since December, and score very few goals. Score first in this one and we should have a decent chance. Barry is there to close it out should we need to. Lookman to change if it goes tits up.
If Koeman wants to shoehorn in a 4 man midfield, by playing a back 4, we might get away with it as, Traore apart, they have no great pace in their side.
Actually an arguement for Jags getting a game, both Williams and Funes Mori are not good enough and neither is Jags so hey what could it hurt?
Whilst the jury is out on Galloway he must be sat in the Midlands thinking he is missing out.
Comfortable 2-0. No fears here .
67 Posted 10/02/2017 at 19:30:05
68 Posted 10/02/2017 at 19:34:04
I've got red mates, and sometimes went to Mordor with them in the 70s, but they reciprocated with visits to Goodison. Haven't done it since then though, and don't bother watching them apart from on MotD after they've lost. Generally, can't be arsed watching them running around like headless chickens with their 'gegenpressing', from which they might be running out of steam now.
69 Posted 10/02/2017 at 19:37:43
Robles, Coleman, Williams, Funes Mori,Baines,
Schneiderlin, Gueye, McCarthy
The reasoning is that there's energy all over the park, and it means that Coleman, Baines & McCarthy can bomb forward without leaving huge gaps, leaving Davies & Ross to support Lukaku but they can also throw a tackle in when not in possession, so it's not as negative as it appears.
The chances of this being the team is nil, but I would like to see it if not vs Middlesbrough then certainly vs Spurs.
70 Posted 10/02/2017 at 20:13:24
Second half we went to a four at the back and, bizarrely, swapped Berkeley to the right and Davies left. Berkeley then looked totally lost.
Not an argument against three but a good argument against that three and the original shape I think.
Whilst the reports here do a good job of reporting the action we don't get enough of a more detailed tactical analysis. There used to be a bloke with a site who did this superbly well for every Everton game. Can't remember the site's name, he stopped a while ago sadly.
71 Posted 10/02/2017 at 20:34:34
72 Posted 10/02/2017 at 20:43:57
73 Posted 10/02/2017 at 20:58:16
Schneiderlin has been doing what we'd all like Barry to keep doing past his by-date, and for more than 60 minutes! Give him more than two-three games to settle in, then moan! I expect Koeman will be playing all his midfielders up against each other to see who finally makes the cut!
Make no mistake, I still want Davies, Holgate (and even Galloway in time) (+++) in there.
But the kids (!) still need to feel some opposition! So let us play our experienced midfielders for some games until they maybe get hammered (I pray not!) like Holgate in defence vs Stoke, then let the other youngsters come on to wow the old fogies if those also messed up at some point!
74 Posted 10/02/2017 at 21:17:20
"The Executioners Bong" was it?
75 Posted 10/02/2017 at 21:20:14
He has the capacity to look unhurried which, as we all know, is one of the main markers of sporting excellence. Clever with it and hard-minded. I'd make him captain for the start of next season.
76 Posted 10/02/2017 at 21:23:55
77 Posted 10/02/2017 at 21:36:06
78 Posted 10/02/2017 at 22:05:29
79 Posted 10/02/2017 at 22:39:48
We need the extra player further up the pitch against Boro and not playing Davies would be madness. He is in electric form and brings out the best in Barkley. 4-3-2-1 all the way.
Coleman, Williams, Funes Mori, Baines
Gueye, Schneiderlin, Davies
80 Posted 10/02/2017 at 22:54:25
We only played well against Bournemouth when he came on and Ross is twice the player alongside him.
81 Posted 10/02/2017 at 23:18:33
Also, very interesting on his approach to Barkley, revealing (in a backhanded way) just how highly he rates him. How could someone of Koeman's excellence not recognise the same in one of his own players and, more importantly, engender confidence in the player?
The more I see and hear of this man, the more embarrassing (even if rational at the time, I say) is my call for him to be sacked before Christmas.
82 Posted 11/02/2017 at 00:33:51
83 Posted 11/02/2017 at 01:27:00
84 Posted 11/02/2017 at 01:34:12
Goals there and plenty on the bench (Valencia, Mirallas, Lookman) if we need it. Boro are no big shakes going forward so the fullbacks can still get forward and Barry can drop deep when required to cover them. I tried like mad to find a place in the starting eleven for McCarthy but Idrissa gives us a bit more. I would keep McCarthy though, to fill Barry's boots next year.
85 Posted 11/02/2017 at 05:41:48
If we get maximum points from the Middlesboro and Sunderland games, and I believe we will, and if Spurs tonk the RedShite, then the derby should be really interesting...
86 Posted 11/02/2017 at 08:11:48
Coleman, Holgate, Funes Mori, Baines
Schneiderlin, Davies, Gueye
87 Posted 11/02/2017 at 08:26:10
I don't like this five man defence - or 3 centre halves. If we are under pressure then Gana can drop back into defence.
We have an embarrassment of midfield talent. Let's use it.
88 Posted 11/02/2017 at 09:03:47
89 Posted 11/02/2017 at 09:25:59
Let's hope all the recent talk of challenging the top six is still on track at 5:00 this evening. Will be happy with a 1 - 0 victory.
90 Posted 11/02/2017 at 09:48:53
Love that team and hope to see it over the next few weeks, and indeed ideally next season. But Middlesbrough away isn't the time to chance a Holgate - Funes Mori centre-back axis;, we need an experienced head in there and for me that has to be Williams.
91 Posted 11/02/2017 at 10:32:14
92 Posted 11/02/2017 at 10:34:30
But confidence is high at present and even more pleasing is the competition for places, which keeps players on their toes.
Middlesborough don't score many I think they have only scored 19 league goals, but they seem to be difficult to beat. I will happily take a 1-0 win today and keep our run going.
93 Posted 11/02/2017 at 10:55:54
It's going to be tight but we now have a lot of quality in the team and we are much better than when we defeated them earlier in the season at Goodison.
94 Posted 11/02/2017 at 13:01:57
The additional players he brought in have fitted in well, Barkley and Mirallas have stepped up a level, we are no longer carrying many passengers in the team.
It will be tough at Boro, but we have the squad to get a result.
95 Posted 11/02/2017 at 13:30:20
96 Posted 11/02/2017 at 13:38:05
97 Posted 11/02/2017 at 13:56:33
99 Posted 11/02/2017 at 14:04:03
100 Posted 11/02/2017 at 14:04:57
Coleman Williams Funes Mori Baines
Gueye Schneiderlain Davies
Barkley Lukaku Lookman
No Mirallas or McCarthy on the bench
101 Posted 11/02/2017 at 14:05:10
25 Funes Mori
Referee: Mike Dean
102 Posted 11/02/2017 at 14:06:46
103 Posted 11/02/2017 at 14:08:21
104 Posted 11/02/2017 at 14:11:44
I just hope that's not put the mockers on it.
105 Posted 11/02/2017 at 14:12:24
106 Posted 11/02/2017 at 14:14:02
107 Posted 11/02/2017 at 14:15:07
108 Posted 11/02/2017 at 14:16:02
109 Posted 11/02/2017 at 14:19:10
110 Posted 11/02/2017 at 14:19:37
A player, substitute or substituted player who commits any of the following offences is sent off:
● Denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (except a goalkeeper within their penalty area);
● Denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the opponents' goal by an offence punishable by a free kick (unless as outlined below);
● Serious foul play;
● Spitting at an opponent or any other person
● Violent conduct;
● Using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures;
● Receiving a second caution in the same match.
A player, substitute or substituted player who has been sent off must leave the vicinity of the field of play and the technical area.
111 Posted 11/02/2017 at 14:22:52
Now of course ESPN in LatAm now banging on about Alexis being top league goalscorer. Come on, Rom, you need another two at least today!
112 Posted 11/02/2017 at 14:23:22
113 Posted 11/02/2017 at 14:29:43
A little absurd I think, but should you bring the player down making a genuine attempt to win the ball, yellow it is.
Pulling someone back, a tackle from behind etc. gets you the red.
One could easily argue Gibbs couldn't win the ball, so just barged into him, so not genuinely trying to win the ball. I thought it was red myself as he made no attempt to tackle him.
114 Posted 11/02/2017 at 14:36:21
denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the opponents' goal by an offence punishable by a free kick
It is a bit about interpretation of "obvious" but I bet would pretty well all agree when it is obvious, probably why that word is used
If a guy had fouled Ross last week after he had gone past the goalie, I would have seen it as obvious, but as it happened, I like many in the ground I bet, had a fleeting thought of: What if he misses? That said, a trained professional on a perfect pitch, no-one in the way, what could be more obvious?