Ancelotti tells Sky that James didn’t train much in the week, but has recovered from his knock. He also says that replacing Gomes with Sigurdsson – who captains the side – was a difficult decision, but he’s been training well and is rewarded for his attitude. Meanwhile, Ancelotti is confident in Jordan Pickford, and hopes his team play with ambition; though they’ve started well, they need to keep at it.
Everton, meanwhile, make three changes: Ben Godfrey makes his first Premier League start for the club, in for the injured Seamus Coleman; Gylfi Sigurdsson is in for Andre Gomes; and Alex Iwobi deputises for the suspended Richarlison. All of which tells us that James Rodriguez is good to go; good.
On which point, I might be misremembering – YouTube is silent on the matter – but didn’t Jermaine Pennant once score the winner for Leeds, when on loan to them from Arsenal?
Stuart Armstrong comes straight back for Southampton, following time out with corona; goodness me, if my experience is anything to go by he’ll find that an extremely taxing endeavour. He replaces Theo Walcott, not allowed to play according to the terms of his loan.
Southampton (a throwback futuristic 4-4-2): McCarthy; Walker-Peters, Vestergaard, Bednarek, Bertrand; Armstrong, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Redmond; Adams, Ings. Subs: Forster, Stephens, Long, Tella, Diallo, Vokins, N’Lundulu.
Everton (a simple complex 4-3-3): Pickford; Godfrey, Mina, Keane, Digne; Doucoure, Allan, Sigurdsson; Rodriguez, Calvert-Lewin, Iwobi. Subs: Olsen, Delph, Nkounkou, Bernard, Gomes, Godfrey, Davies.
VAR’s straight man: Paul Tierney (Belfast)
The Premier League is absolute state – and for once, in the best possible way. Everton top, and with this game in hand, is one thing. But if Southampton win today, they move from 13 to fourth, which is to say that this is a whole new ball game.
I’m sure there’s a cheap gag to be made here, about Goodison and the world’s most perpetually indignant crowd, but anyway: Everton have very quickly become very good, and the way they’ve gone about it is telling. Carlo Ancelotti is a very particular kind of manager, who tends to inherit very good but very unhappy players, fortifying them with very good vibes and very minimalist tactics. And that lookslike what he’s done at Everton, finding the right few words for Dominic Calvert-Lewin – “one-touch finishes like Inzaghi” – then giving him, and Richarlison, all the scope that they need to show all that they have. First, he provided them with a happy working environment, then he contracted Abdoulaye Doucouré and Allan to build them a platform, and finally he asked James Rodríguez to decorate it. It’s extremely simple, but it’s also extremely difficult, because if it wasn’t, everyone would do it.
Southampton are slightly different. Like playing for Ancelotti, playing for Ralph Hasenhüttl looks a lot of fun, but with a lot more drilling – pressing triggers, half-spaces, and all that jazz. In the end, though, it works partly because his team run their arses off for him and partly because they have a pair of big, burly, classy centre-forwards, marking whom sounds like the absolute worst way to spend a Sunday lunch.
This should be really good.
Kick-off: 2pm GMT, 3pm BST
at 8.59am EDT