Under fire Everton boss Marco Silva will be hoping his team can end their turgid run of form when they host West Ham United on Saturday lunchtime.
The international break usually gives teams a chance to reset, figure out what they need to tweak, and enjoy a pit stop from the Premier League circus. Yet, for Everton, that hasn’t been the case.
The Blues haven’t won in four games and there has been talk of the axe being swung on Silva with him inching nearer to the exit door with every poor performance. The rain clouds have circled over Merseyside, with apparent shortlists being drawn up, and out of work managers being reportedly considered.
So, with an in-form West Ham United rolling into town, and the ever-linked to Everton Manuel Pellegrini looking to provide the final nail in the Silva coffin, it’s the perfect time for a rallying call and a bounce back to positive results.
When the sides last met, Silva’s Everton resurgence was in full flow. They’d bounced back from a troubling festive period and looked formidable in a run at the Europa League places.
An early goal from the then-on loan Kurt Zouma set the tone before Bernard swept home moments later. Silva’s men could, and in all likelihood, should have had more – but they blew Pellegrini’s men away.
It was the revenge they’d been looking forward after the Hammers put them to the sword comfortably on earlier in the season. The transfer nearly man Andriy Yarmolenko showed why many an Everton manager sought after his signature as Pellegrini’s travelling clarets secured a comfortable 3-1 victory.
Silva relishing Everton pressure with "pleasure"
While many under-pressure managers would, perhaps, be uptight and reaffirm that they have support from above, Silva himself said that he relishes the pressure.
"For me, pressure is never a problem and it is something I try to pass to my players every single day," the Blues boss noted. "Pressure is really good. It means you are at a club that wants to win, a club with big ambition, and it is the reality of our position.
"Pressure for us as a professional has to be a privilege, a pleasure, because it means we are doing what we really love, that we are working in a football club which is demanding for ourselves."
Pellegrini wants to give 'deserving' fans more
On the other hand, though, the much more comfortable Pellegrini used his pre-match press conference to deliver a verdict on where his team sits and how they’re playing.
The Chilean boss said: "I think that we are where we deserve to be. I am very pleased with the style of football. We scored a beautiful goal against Crystal Palace, we are making chances and trying to score, we play the most amount of time in the opposite half, we have more shots on target.
"The fans deserve to have our style of football and we will not change whether we are winning or losing."
Team News and Predicted XI's
Everton had been hoping to bolster their squad with a few returns from injury but that isn’t to be the case with Cenk Tosun joining the medical list and Jean Phillipe-Gbamin suffering a lengthy setback.
Fabian Delph is a major doubt, while captain Seamus Coleman will miss the game through suspension – letting Silva hand Djibril Sidibe a Premier League debut. Andre Gomes is also back to full fitness and should start from the off.
For the visitors, Michail Antonio, Lukasz Fabianski, and Winston Reid all remain sidelined but they select the fit-again pair of Aaron Cresswell and Robert Snodgrass.
Declan Rice had missed England’s win over Bulgaria during the international break with flu symptoms, but he should be fit to bolster Pellegrini’s midfield.
Everton: Pickford, Sidibe, Digne, Keane, Mina, Gomes, Schneiderlin, Sigurdsson, Iwobi, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin.
West Ham: Roberto, Cresswell, Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna, Rice, Noble, Lanzini, Yarmolenko, Anderson, Haller.