Everton travel to Nottingham Forest on Saturday evening searching for their first Premier League win since being hit with a 10-point penalty.
The Toffees were beaten 3-0 by Manchester United at Goodison Park and remain in deep trouble following the punishment, while Forest lost 3-2 to 10-man Brighton at home. Just one win in nine games for Forest has seen manager Steve Cooper come under a lot of pressure in recent weeks, but the same cannot be said of Sean Dyche.
With both teams desperate to bounce back to winning ways, let us take a look at the key battles.
#Abdoulaye Doucoure vs Orel Mangala
Abdoulaye Doucoure has once again thrived in an advanced midfield role, scoring four goals in 13 appearances. He has started all 13 games for Everton this season and remains a key player for Sean Dyche, with the Frenchman’s late runs in the box and long-range shooting a threat for the opposition.
In good form of late, Doucoure will be on the lookout for spaces in and around the box to hurt Forest. For the hosts, Orel Mangala will be responsible of mopping things in the middle of the park from the No.6 role. A tenacious tackler, the Belgium international must produce a top performance to shackle the threat of Doucoure. In addition, he must also use his passing skills to build attacks for his team.
#Anthony Elanga vs Ashley Young
Anthony Elanga gave a timely reminder against Brighton last weekend that his best position at Forest lies on the left of a front three. He has filled in many attacking roles during Cooper’s experimentation with different systems this season but started on the left of a 4-1-4-1 system against Brighton. And inside three minutes the Swedish speedster gave a glimpse of his quality by opening the scoring for Forest.
So, there is a big possibility of Elanga starting in the same position against Everton. He could come up against Ashley Young playing at right-back. Young endured a torrid time against the young Alejandro Garnacho last weekend. Clearly, the ex-England international is no more the force he once was in his prime and conceded a penalty for tripping Anthony Martial.
Given Young’s struggles, Elanga will be looking to take him on from the off with his speed and directness. In a bid to stop the Forest forward, the Everton right-back will need to avoid giving him space behind the defence to run onto.
#Morgan Gibbs-White vs Vitaliy Mykolenko & Dwight McNeil
Forest’s most creative player, Morgan Gibbs-White is expected to start again on the right of a 4-1-4-1 system and look to split open the Everton backline with his incisive passing and vision. In reality, when he plays well, Forest generally fly; so, the creative midfielder is absolutely crucial to Cooper’s side.
On the Everton left, the double-team of Vitaliy Mykolenko & Dwight McNeil will have a task on their sleeves to nullify Gibbs-White’s influence in the game. They will need to communicate well and stay compact when Forest are in possession, especially Gibbs-White, who can pick out his teammates in one blink of an eye. Going forward, Mykolenko and McNeil must make the best of their moments on the counter-attacks and punish Forest.
So, it will be intriguing to see how Everton’s left-hand side of Mykolenko and McNeil deal with Gibbs-White at the weekend.
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