Everton meets Norwich City at 3pm, so here are my picks for the team I would pick to face the Canary Islands.
After a recent terrible streak in the Premier League, Everton badly need a morale win and three important points in bottom club Norwich. It certainly wouldn’t do anything else.
Although Norwich isn’t a great offensive threat, I’d like to see a more solid and better balanced Blues side, as we’ve seen in recent weeks, so I’ve gone with eleven players in a 4-3-3 formation.
Goalkeeper: Jordan Pickford
This is of course a no-brainer and despite Asmir Begovic’s solid performance at Hull City, Pickford is clearly the number one choice to have died among the sticks.
In fact, in a marked change from the past, Pickford has been so strong and reliable this season that he is hardly mentioned. The England goalkeeper has been a consistent and truly uncontroversial player, something he can count on during another campaign of turmoil and controversy.
Central Defence: Michael Keane
Kane has been his usual inconsistent self, blending decent performances with error-ridden efforts as he has done all season.
Although Yerry Mina looks fit again, I’d be hesitant to bring him back, especially after what happened the last time when he came back fast against Arsenal and then had to walk out again less than half an hour later. So, despite my doubts, I think Kane should play this afternoon.
Central Defence: Ben Godfrey
I was very fond of going to pick a surprise here and pick Jarrad Branthwaite. But, while I’m a huge fan of the young defender, I think Godfrey has done enough recently to keep his place and I hope he’s ready for his good performance against his old club.
Godfrey is still on the learning curve as a central defender, but his speed and strength give him the tools to become a good defender. And while he did well at left-back, that situation is now settled, hopefully, so I think the more he plays in midfield, the better he gets too.
Right-back: Seamus Coleman
Again, I tend to go for another surprise and pick Nathan Patterson for this position. However, while we’re excited about the potential of this young Scotsman, it’s probably too early to start, so I think again the most obvious and experienced decision is Coleman.
The club captain hasn’t been in great shape lately but he’s a lot of experience and in his day he’s still a solid enough defender so he’s got a nod, though maybe we’ll see Patterson later in the game?
Left-back: Vitaly Mikolenko
For a long time, it was an obvious and easy decision to write the name Lucas Digne here, but he is gone and the future is now the young Ukrainian player.
Mykolenko has a big boot to fill, and although Digne was a shadow of the player Everton originally signed, he remains an international player at the top of the list and has been a key member of this Blues squad since joining.
Well, the new era officially begins today and after making a strong enough appearance at Hull, let’s hope the 22-year-old can quickly develop into the player this team needs to become.
Midfield: Abdallah Doukour
The Frenchman enters another player who does not think of this team when he is fit, although he was far from his best in Everton’s last Premier League game against Brighton.
The Toffees really need Doucoure back in pace with his dynamic, athletic presence, box-to-box speed and extra offensive threat from the middle of the park.
Midfield: Andros Townsend
This might be a somewhat unusual choice, but Townsend has played in a three-way midfield before this season and will certainly work hard while presenting an offensive threat of course.
I was thinking of going with Andre Gomes from the start, but I think the Portuguese is best suited to play twenty minutes or half an hour later in the game.
Therefore, I will have Townsend play as a three-midfield side to advance as much as possible and support my defense when needed.
The Brazilian also played a very poor match against The Seagull, but he responded and was much better in the FA Cup match at Hull.
He’s a good player, very experienced, of course, and there aren’t any alternatives if I want three in midfield with Tom Davies injured and Jean-Philippe Gbamin effectively frozen from Benitez.
Striker: Anthony Gordon
20-year-old Gordon is fast becoming an almost automatic pick these days for Everton as the young academy graduate continues to grow in confidence and influence on the pitch.
He had another good game at Hull and started to develop a really fruitful understanding with team-mate Demarai Gray, who was impressed by the excellent exchange that led to Gray’s goal in the FA Cup match.
Striker: Demarie Gray
The former Leicester City player is the right boot to start when he’s fit and has been the most positive thing ever at this Blues side all season.
Gray’s pace, movement and excellent finishing made him a great addition, just what Everton needed, and arguably the Premier League’s bargain of the season.
Center Forward: Dominic Calvert-Lewin
Although Richarlison is very close to full fitness, I would have him off the bench today ready to go in if needed with his regular hitting partner Calvert Lewin back in the starting lineup.
The England international is clearly a key player for this squad, a major threat to goals and crucial to how Benitez would like to shape his squad.
Having a fully fit and firing Calvert Lewin is sure to be crucial to how the rest of this campaign unfolds for Everton. We hope this improvement begins today.