PREVIEW | EVERTON VS WOLVES
It’s good to be back!
With a very entertaining World Cup in Qatar barely wrapped up, Everton are back in action on Boxing Day and it’s time for us to strap ourselves back into the rollercoaster that supporting this club is.
And it’s hardly an easing back into things either, with a potentially crucial clash with bottom-of-the-table Wolves marking the Toffees’ first competitive fixture in six weeks.
The West Midlands outfit will have undoubtedly welcomed the season break just as much as Everton did and are embarking on a fresh start under new manager Julen Lopetegui, who will take charge of his first league match on Monday.
The Blues, only just hovering above the drop zone themselves in 17th place, will be keen to ruin the Spaniard’s party and are buoyed by only having a handful of notable absentees.
Who will take on Wolves?
Everton’s only real miss looks set to be forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Frank Lampard has been cagey at best when answering questions on the 25-year-old this week and the implication appears to be that he’s not match ready yet and thrusting him straight in on Boxing Day would be irresponsible.
It looks likely then that starting upfront for the Toffees will be Neal Maupay, off the back of scoring in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Aston Villa on Wednesday.
The departure of Salomon Rondon on a free last week means Tom Cannon will almost certainly be amongst the Everton substitutes.
The 19-year-old was given a combined 25 minutes off the bench in Everton’s final two matches before the break, both away at Bournemouth, and has 11 goals in 15 matches for the U23s so far this season.
The only other notable absentee for the Blues is Conor Coady, who is unable to play against his parent club under the conditions of his loan deal.
One to watch – Jordan Pickford
Everton’s biggest success story at the World Cup was undoubtedly Jordan Pickford who didn’t put a foot wrong on the big stage once again and helped England reach the quarter-finals.
The inexplicable and unfounded doubts over his club form are likely to resurface now he is back playing in an Everton jersey but it is up to the shot-stopper to prove those nay-sayers wrong.
He’s had an outstanding 2022, playing a huge part in the Toffees’ survival last campaign and continuing that form into this season and onto the international stage.
A clean sheet on Monday would only boost his mood higher.
One to watch – Diego Costa
With questions persisting over who will partner James Tarkowski at the back in Coady’s absence, the biggest case to put forward for Yerry Mina is that Diego Costa looks set to be leading the Wolves attack.
As the Toffees’ resident wind-up merchant, Mina could be vital in getting under the skin of the notoriously irksome Costa and the two squaring off against each other would definitely be an entertaining watch for the Goodison crowd.
The Spaniard will be encouraged however by the fact that his record against Everton is very good with four goals in six matches against the Blues during his time with Chelsea.
While the jokes have been flying around on social media about how pleasant a break from Everton has been, I’m sure most of us are aching to get back to Goodison and are more than ready to get hurt again.
There’s no doubt that a win on Boxing Day would be hugely important but I wouldn’t say it’s panic stations yet.
These next few matches are merely a good opportunity for Lampard to re-assess his squad ahead of what could be a crucial January transfer window.
That said, a win on Monday would be lovely, wouldn’t it?