Match: Everton v Leeds United
Date: 28th November 2020
Time: 17.30 GMT 12.30 ET, 09.30 PST.
Venue: Goodison Park, Liverpool, Merseyside, England
Leeds United travel to face Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton in one of the more high profile managerial clashes in the recent history of Leeds.
The Toffees started the season in scintillating form, winning their opening four league games to top the table, followed by a creditable 2-2 draw with local rivals and Premier League champions Liverpool. However, they then lost their next three before returning to winning ways with a 3-2 win at Craven Cottage against Fulham.
For most of the season Everton have lined up in a 4-3-3 formation, but changed to a 3-4-3 against Fulham and saw both a win, and some excellent attacking football. I can’t be sure which formation we will see against Leeds, but both Joel Parker of Everton blog Toffee Analysis (via @AllStatsArentWe) and Pete Reynolds of fellow SB Nation site Royal Blue Mersey are expecting the 3-4-3, so I will too.
There will be one enforced change for Everton with left-back Lucas Digne picking up an ankle injury that will require surgery. This is a big blow for the Toffees who get a lot of attacking output from Digne, including two assists against Fulham. On the other side of the pitch, Seamus Coleman misses out with a Hamstring injury. Those injuries could have lead to a change in shape, but Ancelotti went out of his way in his press conference to praise the strength of deputies Jonjoe Kenny (RB) and Niels Nkounkou (LB). Everton have also used Nigeria international Alex Iwobi as a right-wing-back and his performances have been praised (the Fulham game especially) so I expect him to beat Jonjoe Kenny to the starting role. Iwobi on the left and Kenny on the right is also an option if Ancelotti does not want to put his faith in youth with Nkounkou.
Everton do not sit particularly deep in their shape so Leeds will hopefully find it easier to create chances than the matches against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City who have a similar basic shape. Against a 3-4-3 Leeds will start in a 4-1-4-1 but Rodrigo (or whoever is the most advanced eight) could push up to give Leeds a shape similar to a 4-4-2, as that will give Leeds 2v3 in Attack and 4v3 in Defence, adhering to Marcelo Bielsa’s “plus one” superiority.
Leeds shape will leave an interesting 2v2 duel in the middle of midfield with the impressive pairing of Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan against Mateusz Klich and Kalvin Phillips (who will be further forward, think Pascal Struijk v Crystal Palace).
Everton’s big strength is their front three. Striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin has 10 goals in nine league matches, making him the top scorer in the Premier League. DCL has massively improved his finishing this season to add to his excellent movement, hold-up play, and strength in the air. If Everton can get the ball wide you would have to fancy DCL in duels against Robin Koch and Liam Cooper.
Richarlison on the left of the front three is probably Everton’s most important player (at least statistically). Since moving to Everton from Watford in July 2018, Everton have not won a league game in which Richarlison has not played. On the right we will see Colombia international James Rodriguez. James is one of the more fun players to watch in world football and is one of the best chance creators in the league. He will drift inside and this will mean Stuart Dallas will have to do a lot work in his man marking role, although James is unlikely to be making any runs he doesn’t “need to make”.
James and Richarlison, James especially, aren’t the best at chasing back so when Leeds do attack Luke Ayling and Stuart Dallas could have a real effect on the game, gaining overloads against Everton’s wing-backs.
With the way this match is likely to shape up, I think it should be quite an open match. I think both teams are stronger offensively than defensively making this quite a tough one to call.
Everton (3-4-3): Pickford; Godfrey, Keane, Holgate; Iwobi, Allan, Doucoure, Nkounkou; James, Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison.
Leeds (4-1-4-1): Meslier; Ayling, Koch, Cooper, Dallas; Phillips; Raphinha, Klich, Rodrigo, Harrison; Bamford.
Prediction: Everton 2 - 2 Leeds. (DCL, Doucoure; Bamford, Raphinha)
What do you think the result will be? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @ThruItAllLUFC.