Match Preview – Cardiff (H)

‘Someone’s going to be on the end of a hiding from us some time soon’, we’ve said. Everton have been creating so many chances and not putting them away, but still getting results most of the time, that you get the feeling that if it all comes together, it’s going to be special.

So if you were going to pick a game where that would happen, which would it be? Evertonians are surely licking their lips at this one. “I don’t enjoy the Premier League like the Championship, everybody knows that”, said Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock not even two months ago. The first Premier League relegation strugglers to admit their fate in September?

We can’t afford to take it easy, though. Cardiff come into the game on the back of a win last time-out, with goals from in-form forward Callum Paterson and centre-back Sol Bamba securing a 2-1 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion. They also made life difficult for Spurs last month at Wembley, who scraped a 1-0 victory despite Cardiff’s Josh Murphy having several chances to level the scoreline.

The big question for Marco Silva is, after Yerry Mina’s impressive performance last time out against Chelsea, whether Kurt Zouma comes back into the line-up to partner Michael Keane following Zouma’s ineligibility against his parent club. All three centre-backs are in fine form, so any partnership will be welcomed by Evertonians. Some fans have even called for all three to be played together, although three centre-halves against Cardiff at home is perhaps more reminiscent of Everton’s previous manager than the present one. All in all, it’s a nice situation to be stuck in; a ‘good headache’, in the manager’s own words from Friday’s pre-match press conference.

In Silva’s press conference, he confirmed that Andre Gomes and Gylfi Sigurdsson are both available for selection following their injury problems during the international break. It was just bruising for Gomes, but it didn’t look good for Gylfi after he was seen leaving Stamford Bridge in a supportive boot. However, the Icelandic playmaker has made the most of the well-timed international break and will be hoping to start the game tomorrow.

There have been widespread calls to drop Theo Walcott and introduce Ademola Lookman, after the former missed several key chances in recent games and the latter has impressed both off the bench and in the friendly against Gor Mahia. This will also be an important call for Silva, but may be made easier by the fact that Lookman was unable to play in England under-23s’ recent fixtures due to a minor injury.

Star man Richarlison will lead the line again after another goalscoring performance for Brazil, and will fancy himself against a Cardiff defence who have conceded 25 goals in their 12 games so far this season, an unwanted statistic only topped by Fulham.

If Everton can counter-attack as fast as we have been seeing in recent breaks and come off the international break like it hasn’t been there, we’re in for a good one this afternoon.

So, with proper football finally back, let’s go to Goodison Park and see some stylish football played by Everton. Now that’s not something you would have been reading last year.

COYB – Tom