The inside view on Sheffield Wednesday's FA Cup opponents Everton
Sheffield Wednesday will be hoping to pull off a major upset when they travel to Merseyside on Sunday to take on Everton in the FA Cup fourth round.
The Owls head to Goodison Park, after a two-week hiatus due to a Covid-19 outbreak at the club, protecting a five-match unbeaten run which has seen them win their last three games, including a solid 2-0 victory at League Two outfit Exeter City in the third round.
They will also be boosted by the return of caretaker manager Neil Thompson to the dugout after missing the game in Devon last time out following a positive coronavirus test.
In the opposite corner is multi-title-winning Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti, who has breathed new life into the Toffeemen since taking over from Marco Silva in December 2019.
The 61-year-old former Juventus, Milan and Chelsea boss has guided Everton to sixth place in the Premier League and they would only be two points behind leaders Manchester United if they win their two games in hand.
So which players make Everton tick?
Adam Jones, the club’s reporter for the Liverpool Echo, gives us the lowdown on the men from Goodison.
What have you made of Everton’s start to the season?
It's been pretty brilliant, if truth be told.
Of course there was a dip in form over the course of around October and November which knocked Everton's confidence somewhat, but either side of that they have played some excellent football and secured big results.
Carlo Ancelotti seems to have really got stuck into this squad now and is really making an impact both on and off the pitch.
The summer signings of James Rodriguez, Allan, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Ben Godfrey have all been quality additions to a squad that just needed that extra push and organisation to achieve something more.
The main thing that Everton have desperately missed over recent seasons has been consistency, and Ancelotti is coming much closer to delivering that than any manager at Goodison Park for a long time.
If they win their game in hand, then they go above Liverpool after the same amount of matches played. That sums up how promising a start this has been for the Blues.
Who have been the stand-out performers for Everton and their main threats?
Well, Dominic Calvert-Lewin has to be the man who instantly springs to mind.
Wednesday fans will of course be well aware of the former Sheffield United man, especially after he bagged a double when the sides met in the League Cup last season.
Since that point the striker has come on leaps and bounds. Ancelotti has instructed him to focus on being in the box more often and he's turned himself into a predatory finisher in the area.
With quality service being provided from the fit-again Lucas Digne on one flank and the fantastic Rodriguez on the other, he'll be a huge threat if fit.
Richarlison also carries a lot of weight in the Everton side at the minute despite being a little out of form over the last few weeks, while Alex Iwobi's direct runs from midfield this season have been brilliant on occasion.
The former Arsenal man is getting better and better as the campaign goes on, so he might be someone to watch out for.
What would be a 'successful' season for Everton - where do you expect them to finish?
Qualifying for Europe is an absolute must for Everton this season.
Ancelotti is well aware of this fact, and hasn't been afraid to challenge his side to even secure themselves a Champions League place at the end of the term.
While that might prove to be a little ambitious in the grand scheme of things, a place in the top six is feasible thanks to the brilliant head-start the Blues have given themselves so far in 2020/21.
Breaking the club's 26-year wait for a trophy has to be a huge priority as well, and the FA Cup will be the best chance for them to do that.
What would Evertonians prefer - winning the FA Cup or finishing in the top four?
That really depends on which Evertonian you ask!
I've had this debate with lots of supporters over the past few years and seem to get a different answer every time, so I wouldn't like to speak for the whole fanbase.
Personally, I think breaking that trophy duck is imperative for Everton. A huge amount of the club's supporters now don't remember the club ever winning any silverware.
For a side of the historical size of this one, that's unacceptable, and needs to come to an end as soon as possible.
What style of football (or system) should Wednesday expect to come up against?
This is dependent on the strength of side Ancelotti decides to choose, with important Premier League matches against Leicester City and Newcastle United in the following week.
Presuming the manager goes full strength, and Calvert-Lewin is fit, Wednesday should expect a lot of crosses into the box to try and utilise his best asset - his heading ability.
Ancelotti likes his side to use possession intelligently - not a tika-taka style, he wants his players to be more direct and to break up the pitch with as much pace as possible.
Recently Everton have been very resolute at the back as well thanks to some brilliant central defensive performances in particular.
I'll have to go for an Everton win here, although their struggles against Rotherham United make me think it'll be a close game.
I'll go for 2-1 to the hosts.
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