Everton travel to Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday looking to distance themselves from the relegation zone.
Frank Lampard’s reign at Goodison Park got off to a good start as Everton beat Brentford in the FA Cup but he was served a reminder of the situation his new club are in when Newcastle United beat the Toffees 3-1 in his first Premier League game in charge. Everton did bounce back with a win over Leeds but they still remain just five points clear of 18th-placed Norwich.
Southampton, meanwhile, go into his game unbeaten in three Premier League matches and given their run of fixtures that is no mean feat. Saints started that run with a 1-1 draw against Premier League leaders Manchester City and then came from behind to beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-2 away from home. Then, last weekend, it was another draw against a Manchester club, this time United at Old Trafford to lift Southampton up to 10th.
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And Ralph Hasenhuttl’s team appear to be in a decent position when it comes to squad fitness, with just three guaranteed absences. Both Lyanco and Alex McCarthy were expected to miss this match with longer-term layoffs from injury, but there was hope that Nathan Tella would be back in time.
Tella suffered a groin injury last month and the expectation was that after the international break he would be back. But the winger suffered a setback and is still a week or so away from returning. However, there was positive news regarding Nathan Redmond, who is back in training.
Despite Hasenhuttl wanting to focus solely on the game ahead, he was asked about his future at Southampton, with defender Jan Bednarek having tipped him to manage one of the biggest clubs one day. Manchester United are among those clubs being linked with Hasenhuttl (as they look for a permanent manager post-Ralf Rangnick), but the former RB Leipzig manager was having none of it, quickly squashing any rumours.
“It was a very awful question for a player from my team, what else should he answer? He has to answer it and he tried to come out of it with a good answer, and he did it,” he said of Bednarek.
“This is not in my mind or what is interesting me.
“I don’t want to speak about my future every week. Last week we spoke about some different stuff and this week, we should speak about our game against Everton this weekend.
“This is where my whole energy and whole focus is, on this game. Everything else I will leave to you.”
Back to Everton, however, and Fraser Forster will start in goal for Southampton, picked ahead of Willy Caballero in McCarthy’s absence, and it would be a surprise to see Hasenhuttl deviate from his 4-4-2/4-2-2-2 formation. One change that could come is Tino Livramento for Romain Perraud, with Kyle Walker-Peters moving back over to the left, the other side of Mohammed Salisu and Jan Bednarek.
In midfield, Oriol Romeu and James Ward-Prowse should be the central partnership and although Redmond is back in training he may not be risked from the start, so Stuart Armstrong and Mohamed Elyounoussi could man the flanks. Armando Broja and Che Adams should continue their partnership in attack.
Southampton predicted XI vs Everton | Premier League gameweek 26
Forster; Livramento, Bednarek, Salisu, Walker-Peters; S Armstrong, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Elyounoussi; Adams, Broja.
Things aren’t as positive for Everton, however. Lampard has confirmed that Demarai Gray is still injured for the trip to Southampton after coming off injured in Everton’s 3-1 defeat to Newcastle at the start of February.
There had been hopes of a return this weekend, but the potential comeback has been pushed to next week.
“(Vitalii) Mylokenko is back but Demarai Gray won’t quite make this weekend,” Lampard told reporters. “We’re hopeful for the following week.”
Lampard also provided further updates on the likes of Abdoulaye Doucoure, Ben Godfrey, Yerry Mina and Fabian Delph, all of whom will miss this weekend’s trip.
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“Doucoure trained with us today in his first integration into a proper session so hopefully over the next week we can see a strong progression for him to be available for the following week,” he added.
“Ben Godfrey is getting closer. Hopefully we’re on schedule at least for that which means two or three weeks. Yerry Mina is a bit longer. He’s just starting the process.
“Fabian Delph is similar to Ben Godfrey. We’re hopeful for two or three weeks for those two.”
After getting his first Premier League win as Everton manager under his belt last weekend, Lampard may be tempted to stick with the same starting XI that beat Everton 3-0 at Goodison Park. Should that be the case, the back five would see Seamus Coleman, Mason Holgate, Michael Keane and Jonjoe Kenny starting ahead of Jordan Pickford in goal.
Donny van de Beek will be hoping he can string together two Premier League starts alongside Allan, but Andre Gomes will have his eyes on a spot in the midfield two. Dele Alli will hope he can start after coming on from the bench, but it would be harsh for Lampard to drop Anthony Gordon after his goal against Leeds. Dominic Calvert-Lewin x Richarlison should be unbroken up front.
Everton predicted XI vs Southampton | Premier League gameweek 26
Pickford; Coleman, Holgate, Keane, Kenny; Allan, Van de Beek; Alli, Gordon; Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin.