With all the takeover news and gossip that’s emerged since Mike Ashley’s intriguing interview with Sky on Monday night, it’d be easy to forget that we actually have a game tonight.
Rafa admitted just yesterday that takeover talk IS a distraction, and since then the rumours have only intensified, with it emerging that Peter Kenyon is now the ‘clear front-runner’ to seal a takeover.
Back to the task in hand though, and tonight sees us take on a very dangerous Everton side – who could play like a wounded animal after their late Merseyside derby loss to Liverpool on Sunday.
Who knows how they’ll react, but a good friend of mine (who’s a big Everton fan) is fully expecting them to be at it from the off under the lights at Goodison – and that won’t bode well for us if we can’t be MUCH better than we were against West Han.
It’s highly unlikely that Rafa goes for this, but it could make sense on several fronts.
Firstly, it would offer routes back into the side fo Shelvey and Lascelles – two players who are likely to return regardless of the formation we play given rotation is essential at this time of year.
Then, with Ritchie ruled out through suspension and Dummett out again through injury, it makes a lot of sense to put Kenedy in at left-wing back for me. He’s played in this role on countless occasions for Chelsea, with a return to a five/three at the back system seeming to make sense given A) how it worked so well in our last away game at Burnley and B) the fact it accommodates the return of Lascelles, with us having plenty of good options to play three centre-backs.
The above system means our width can only come from our wing-backs, but with Ritchie out and Murphy/Atsu doing little to justify a start, this could be our best bet.
That said, the below side is probably the most realistic with rotation, injuries and Rafa’s preferred formation in mind.
Predicted NUFC team – (4-2-3-1) – Dubravka – Yedlin, Lascelles, Fernandez, Clark – Atsu, Shelvey, Diame, Kenedy – Muto- Rondon.
Here’s a few ‘ones to watch’ in this West Ham side:
Andre Gomes: The Barcelona loanee looks an absolute class act. The tall Portuguese international is a Rolls-Royce of a midfielder and a elegant operator who can pick a pass and dribble past his man with ease. Everton fans love him – and it’s easy to see why.
Richarlison: The Brazilian will more than likely play in a centre-forward role once again, and will give our centre-backs a real tough test. He’s got it all and will be ruthless if we show him too much respect.
Yeri Mina: The 6ft 6′ Colombian is an absolute giant at the back. He will be a big presence for them in both boxes, with Salomon Rondon facing a toughest task against him in what promises to be some physical battle.
Ademola Lookman: I’ve missed out Sigurdsson – a top class technician an obvious threat – as Everton youngster Lookman is being tipped to start down their right. He’s direct, full of pace and has an eye for goal, so whoever fills in for us at left-back will have to have their wits about them tonight.
Predicted Everton XI – (4-2-3-1) – Pickford – Coleman, Keane, Mina, Digne – Gueye, Gomes – Lookman, Sigurdsson, Bernard – Richarlison.
Matt Ritchie is suspended after picking up his 5th yellow over the weekend and Paul Dummett has been ruled out once again with a hamstring injury.
Jonjo Shelvey, Jamaal Lascelles and Yoshinori Muto could return to the side, but Isaac Hayden and Karl Darlow have been ruled out by Rafa.
Ademola Lookman is in contention to start, but Morgan Schneiderlin could miss out again through injury.
I fear for us in this one if I’m being honest.
Everton were VERY good at Anfield on Sunday and have been at it for a few months now, with several of their summer signings now fully fit and hitting form.
On the flip side, we showed signs of fatigue on Saturday and aren’t blessed with great options to rotate. Who knows how talk of a takeover will affect us – although Rafa suggested just yesterday that it definitely doesn’t help.
I think Everton will come at us hard from the off, looking to put Sunday’s derby defeat behind them, so the key will be surviving an early storm and taking any chances that come our way.
I hope I’m wrong, but I’ve not got a good feeling about tonight..
Prediction: Everton 3-1 Newcastle
Howay the lads!