Everton v Leicester
Wednesday January 27, kick-off 20:15
Live on BT Sport 2
Calvert-Lewin back in the goals
Everton will have gone 15 days without a Premier League game by kick-off, a huge gap considering the parameters the league is currently working under, so Sunday’s FA Cup win over Sheffield Wednesday was a nice game to shake off any rust for Carlo Ancelotti’s side.
The break gave Dominic Calvert-Lewin time to recover from injury and also rediscover his scoring touch as he ended a six-game drought to score against the Owls and end 595 minutes of football without a goal.
Calvert-Lewin now has 15 for the season and the Toffees look a different side when he’s the focal point of their attack. Ancelotti has dismissed any talk of a title challenge but this looks like a season where anything could happen – the Foxes are considered in the mix yet a win for Everton will put them just three behind with two games in hand.
Three points at Goodison Park will also lift Everton above neighbours, rivals and champions Liverpool ahead of their trip to Spurs – don’t underestimate how important that will be for players and fans alike.
Can Rodgers go the distance?
Brendan Rodgers has been in a title challenge before of course, and his Leicester side are right in the thick of it after a six-game unbeaten run started after a 2-0 home defeat to Everton in December.
The obvious stumbling block for anything Leicester related is the absence of Jamie Vardy, given how fundamental he is to the way they play – and his is a role that neither Kelechi Iheanacho nor Ayoze Perez can totally replicate.
Much will depend then on how well James Maddison and Harvey Barnes can continue to play, they’ve both contributed six Premier League goals this season and they’ll be the ones tasked with keeping up Leicester’s fine away record this season, which has seen them lose just once on the road – against Liverpool at Anfield.
Leicester have won at Spurs, Leeds, Arsenal and Man City already this season, with only Man Utd holding a better away record and scoring more goals on their travels.
There’s hardly anything between them with Leicester 2.77/4 only ever-so-slightly favoured to beat Everton 2.915/8 with the draw bound to prove popular at 3.39/4. They’ve only drawn four games between them this season though and in head-to-head league meetings they’ve not shared the points since May 2015.
Traditionally there are goals in these games with both teams scoring in 14 of the last 18 contests – at Goodison Park there has been just one game in the last 12 where both teams didn’t find the net. It’s 1.814/5 for both teams to score here, which won’t get you rich but seems likely to be the case again.
Everton’s scoring rate dropped while Calvert-Lewin was out injured and out of form, but now he’s back scoring he’s priced at 2.56/4 to score anytime – and his chances will be greatly improved if Lucas Digne returns as the Frenchman has produced five assists in just nine games this season.
Speaking of assists, James Rodríguez has seven of them in all competitions this season – all of them coming at home.
Maddison the main man for Foxes
Everton have won 15 of their 23 games so far this season and need just one more to match their total for the whole of last season, but Leicester arrive on Merseyside in fine form, especially away from home.
There’s no Vardy, but Maddison is in superb form having been involved in eight goals in 17 league games (scored six, two assists) and has found the net in his last three games. He’s 4.3100/30 to score anytime against Everton and in this form it’s well worth riding his hot streak.
Everton being without the suspended Abdoulaye Doucoure in their midfield engine room will also offer up more space for the likes of Maddison to operate in and he’s full of confidence at the moment going up against a side that may still have a touch of rust about them.
For a touch more value then Youri Tielemens is worth considering at 6.05/1 in the anytime goalscorer market. He’s by no means prolific, but he’s already matched last season’s tally of five goals and crucially three of those have been from the penalty spot.
Regular penalty taker Vardy is ruled out and no Premier League side have been given (12) or scored (10) more penalties than Leicester this season. Mike Dean will take charge at Goodison.
Everton have had a nice break, but they’ll need to hit the ground running against a flying Leicester side, and even without Vardy I think the likes of Maddison and Barnes will step-up and show they’re serious title challengers – I’ll be backing them to win at 2.77/4.