Can the Blues gain revenge for League Cup exit?
Everton’s defeat to Swansea in the third round of the Capital One Cup left a sour taste. Not only was it elimination from a competition the Blues felt they could win, but it also represented their first ever defeat against the Welsh side.
That was mid-September. At the time, the Swans were fifth in the Premier League and had won their first three games; Everton, by contrast, had not long lost at home to Crystal Palace and sat firmly in the bottom half.
A month has passed, and the Blues will have a stronger, better, more confident side – and with the home comforts of Goodison Park, too.
In the cup tie, Samuel Eto’o started but was replaced by Romelu Lukaku – but now, the duo look more than capable of playing together.
The midfield was denied Ross Barkley, James McCarthy and Gareth Barry. The defence didn’t contain Seamus Coleman or Leighton Baines. The manager didn’t have two straight wins and a good point in Lille to use as momentum.
The Blues are better placed to beat Swansea this weekend than they were in September. The three points would be nice – but so, too, would be the restoration of balance in the football world.
Is attack the best form of defence?
The signing of Samuel Eto’o raised questions of their own. The iconic 33-year-old is undoubtedly nearing the final years of his career, and as such, he was expected to largely feature from the bench and act as tutor to Romelu Lukaku.
What a dilemma Martinez now has; a decision to make forced upon him by the brilliant striker. His performance against Burnley, alongside and sometimes slightly withdrawn from Lukaku, was superb.
To play those two, as well as Steven Naismith, would seem to slightly counter the type of football Martinez likes.
Against Burnley, a side most teams will expect to beat this season, this sort of style is fine. But against Swansea, ball retention will be vital, as will control of the midfield.
Martinez must decide to stick or twist, and whether to keep playing Eto’o or not.
Will Ross Barkley come back into play?
The rehabilitation of Ross Barkley continued against Burnley – by being named as substitute.
After his remarkable recovery and brilliant reintroduction into the first team against Aston Villa – where he started and, indeed, starred – the desire to see him play every minute of every game is tangible.
But Martinez knows he can’t be played so often, so soon. The midfielder is still recovering from the knee ligament injury sustained on the eve of the new season.
However, against Swansea, he may deserve another start.
Martinez has options. As mentioned, Eto’o and Lukaku – along with Naismith – mean there is no rush for Barkley to return.
Yet nobody will want to be on the pitch more than the youngster himself. Fresh and ready to hurt Swansea, now is the time to unleash Ross.
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