The Toffees take a trip East to the MKM Stadium to battle it out against championship strugglers Hull City in what could be an intriguing FA Cup third-round match.
Both sides will be desperate to get back into form, with Hull City languishing in the bottom half of the Championship and Everton securing a mere 3 points in the last 12 games.
The BBC is possibly banking on a significant cup upset here and has chosen this fixture for their Saturday’s primetime coverage.
Defensive issues could be the catalyst that gives the Tigers hope they can spring a surprise victory. Everton are in a low confidence state, and Benitez will be crying out for a severe kickstart to change the club’s mindset. The club currently sits 15th in the Premier League table and is leaking goals, presently 6th for goals conceded. Benitez may be on borrowed time, with patience running thin amongst fans. The Spaniard will be hoping for a convincing win over the Tigers to boost confidence amongst the ranks.
Everton will also be without Dominic Calvert-Lewin due to rumours that he is still not fully fit following his early reintroduction to the side following a significant period on the side-lines.
New Signings – Vitaliy Mykolenko & Nathan Patterson
A growing optimism about Everton’s future could emerge with the arrival of new signings, Vitaliy Mykolenko (22) and Nathan Patterson (20). With Lucas Digne all but confirmed by Benitez in his desire to leave the club, many fans will be curious about the possible introduction of the £17m Ukrainian replacement.
The same curiosity is echoed about the highly regarded Scotsman, Nathan Patterson. Tipped by many, including Football Scotland’s Euan Robertson, to become one of the best in Europe. Fans are excited to see how this young and promising talent will perform in a Toffees shirt.
Benitez stated that considerations over fitness would dictate a possible start for either of these players.
With young talent emerging in the Everton ranks, Benitez may look to foster a new beginning for his Everton side. This FA Cup fixture could be the perfect game to set that in motion.
One to Watch – Anthony Gordon
Anthony Gordon has shown himself to be a shining light after his determined performance against Brighton last week and may look to play a crucial role in this fixture. Benitez praised Gordon, stating that his “work rate and commitment is all there. Mentally, he’s getting stronger, that is the good thing. He knows he has to develop and keep working hard.”
Ellis Simms and Lewis Dobbin are also two promising forwards that may deserve a chance in this competitive fixture. The poor output of Salomon Rondon this season and the sudden reintroduction of Dominic Calvert-Lewin against Brighton may give these young strikers a chance to prove themselves.
For Hull City, on paper this looks too tough of a matchup. Grant McCann’s side have not managed to win a game since the start of November. That win came against Barnsley, who are currently fighting relegation. Even with the home advantage, Hull City has only managed a single win against the toffees, and their recent record in the FA Cup is poor, only reaching the 2nd round last season. Goals seem to have been the hardest thing to come by for the Tigers. Hull have only scored 20 goals all season, putting them 22nd in the Championship for total goals scored.
One to watch – Keane Lewis-Porter
However, 20-year-old, Keane Lewis-Potter looks to be a hot prospect who could possibly be leading the line with Josh Magennis out injured. With six goals and 3 Assists, Lewis-Porter is Hull’s current top scorer and most threatening player.
Optimism is also in the air for the Tigers, with Turkish Businessman Acun Ilicali looking to make the finishing touches on his potential takeover in what could be a significant development for Hull City Football Club. It’s been confirmed that Ilicali will be at the game this weekend. Hull’s desire to complete the deal and give the Tigers a new lease of life in the transfer market could be the potential bounce that Hull City needs in a game like this.
Everton players out include Richarlison, Andros Townsend and Yerry Mina, with Alex Iwobi leaving for the AFCON. Jarrad Branthwaite and Fabian Delph are both unlikely to feature in this match.
Hull City Players unlikely to be included are Callum Elder and Josh Magennis, who were injured in the Tigers 1-0 defeat to Blackpool. Alfie Jones, Lewis Coyle and Joshua Emmanuel will likely not feature.
Whilst this may be a more competitive fixture than first envisioned it’s likely the Toffees will have too much quality and firepower for this struggling Hull side as they look to the FA cup to rescue their struggling season.