Frank Lampard discovered the true extent of the Everton job on Tuesday evening, witnessing his side go down 3-1 to relegation rivals Newcastle, despite going 1-0 up through a Jamal Lascelles own goal.
The result left the Blues sixteenth in the Premier League, having lost their last four games in the League, leaving them with nineteen points from twenty-one games. The Toffees have picked up just four points since 10th November, the least of any club.
Lampard’s side face a Leeds team who drew 3-3 in a pulsating draw with Aston Villa on Wednesday night. Dan James scored twice, and Diego Llorente smashed in the third following a corner, to earn Marcelo Bielsa’s side a crucial point.
The result left Leeds four points and one place ahead of Lampard’s Everton, although the Blues do have a game in hand on their opponents.
Saturday’s fixture also sees the rivalry between Frank Lampard and Leeds reignited, following the Spygate scandal in January 2019 when Lampard was manager of Derby County.
The Everton boss is without a number of first-team players for the game. Yerry Mina and Demarai Gray both went off in the defeat to Newcastle and are both ruled out of the match. Mina is out for 8-10 weeks, whilst Gray’s injury is not thought to be too serious.
The Colombian joins midfielders Abdoulaye Doucouré, Fabian Delph and Tom Davies on the injury table, whilst Ben Godfrey is also expected to be out for a month with a hamstring injury.
Vitaly Mykolenko is also a doubt after missing the defeat in midweek with Covid, but after the Newcastle defeat, it remains to be seen if Lampard will put Andros Townsend left-wing back again.
Yet Evertonians could see both Dele Alli and Donny van de Beek make their home debuts, after being brought on against Newcastle.
The West Yorkshire side are also without a number of first-team players.
Kalvin Phillips, Liam Cooper, Sam Greenwood and Patrick Bamford are all still unavailable, although Junior Firpo and former Blue Adam Forshaw could make a return to the side.
One to watch – Everton
The Dutch international struggled for game time under Ralf Rangnick, and former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær and is expected to play more regularly for the Blues.
The 24-year-old certainly has quality, showcased in his performances for Ajax when they reached the Champions League semi-finals.
One of Van de Beek’s strengths is his passing, and he looked neat and tidy when he came on against Newcastle. But with Everton’s current situation, the fans will be hoping he is one to drive the team on and away from the relegation places.
One to watch – Leeds United
Raphinha has been a revelation for Leeds since his signing in October 2020. He has made fifty appearances in all competitions, scoring fourteen goals. His first goal was actually against Everton at Goodison Park last season. His goal secured the Whites their first win on the blue half of Merseyside since 1990.
The Brazilian was also one of the stand-out players at the start of the season, and even scored in the reverse fixture at Elland Road, which finished in a 2-2 draw.
The 25-year-old has an average rating of 7.18 according to WhoScored, and he has a number of strengths which include set-pieces, long shots, crossing and passing. This makes him by far Leeds most dangerous player, and the Toffees defence will certainly have to be alert and on their A-game, or Raphinha’s brilliance could turn the game in Leeds favour.
However, he does have weaknesses, one of them being aerial duels. If Everton play as they did against Brentford last weekend and press high, they could isolate Raphinha and make Leeds play long, allowing them to get on the ball and dictate the play.
The return of Dominic Calvert-Lewin could be the key to an Everton victory on Saturday afternoon. The striker scored a penalty in the game at Elland Road, and had scored in the first three Premier League games of the season before getting injured.
The England international offers more of a focal point up top and if he is fully fit, he is more than a handful.
Saturday’s fixture at Goodison Park is pivotal for both clubs. If Everton lose, it is five defeats on the bounce in the League, and Leeds will pull seven points clear. If Everton lose and results go against them, they could find themselves in the bottom three.
However, if they win, the Toffees close the gap to one point with a game in hand. The result is arguably the most important of Everton’s season so far, not something any Evertonian would have thought at the start of the season.
It has certainly been a baptism of fire for Frank Lampard, but after the defeat to Newcastle United, he will be hoping for a response from his team.
Hopefully, Goodison will be at its raucous, bear-pit best, making it as difficult as possible for Leeds to get anything out of the game.
Despite Everton’s form, Leeds cannot keep a clean sheet on the road, which is hard to look past. The Blues will get their much-needed win in the League and move away from the relegation places.