The Easter weekend presents an annual challenge for Premier League clubs, with a couple of games coming in quick succession, but for Everton this year’s holiday period is complicated further by the looming FA Cup semi-final with Liverpool.
Everton play Norwich City at Carrow Road on Saturday and then return to Goodison Park to meet Sunderland for the third time in a month on Monday, two games in 72 hours just days before Wembley hosts a Merseyside derby. David Moyes, who AOL
Marouane Fellaini remains two bookings away from a suspension, suggesting that if Fellaini plays and receives a yellow card at Norwich he will sit out the Sunderland fixture. The fixture congestion comes at a time when Everton’s squad is spread a little thin – Jack Rodwell remains on the sidelines with a hamstring injury, Seamus Coleman is absent with a thigh muscle problem and Leon Osman was withdrawn at half-time against West Bromwich Albion after picking up a knock, although Royston Drenthe has returned from compassionate leave to bolster Moyes’ options.
Moyes was willing to sacrifice three points at Anfield to help progress through the FA Cup against Sunderland, so the precedent for mass changes to the line-up is there and, if there was just one game to play before the semi-final, there would be no doubt that is what the long-serving manager would do. The second league game complicates matters, however, as does its staging at Goodison. Six points is a large chunk of the remainder of the league season, with only seven games and 21 points available as it stands. A poor showing at Goodison in the match immediately before the majority of the crowd travels to Wembley would seriously lower the buoyancy currently lifting the blue half of Merseyside.
Those same supporters would understand a raft of changes for both matches, but would still demand a strong showing from whoever is sent onto the pitch. With some of the players playing for their places at Wembley – Moyes’ line-up is largely settled but there are spots up for grabs, such as the left of midfield and right-back, where Phil Neville is probable but Tony Hibbert could come in – there should be less danger of a dip in performance than there often is ahead of an important game. It is not in the nature of a Moyes team to give less than their all and with a full-throated Goodison cheering them on there is plenty of extra motivation, although the Norwich trip may be more problematic. Everton will have to deal with their split focus for a little longer yet.
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