Brighton & Hove Albion-Everton Preview
Back-to-back Everton defeats over all competitions, especially one against their biggest rivals, have reportedly seen the bloom come off the Carlo Ancelotti rose. Another loss to Brighton & Hove Albion might send Toffees supporters into complete revolt.
Looking to avoid a third consecutive defeat overall, Everton aim to get back on track and keep the visiting Seagulls from doing the double when they meet Saturday at Goodison Park.
Following wins over Burnley and Newcastle United in Ancelotti's first two games as manager, Everton (7-4-10) seemed poised to turn things around. However, 2020 has not been good thus far for the Toffees.
They lost 2-1 at Manchester City on New Year's Day, then 1-0 against what was essentially a second-tier Liverpool squad in the FA Cup last weekend. The later was made worse since Everton fielded a strong lineup and still could not breakthrough against a side that seemed to be ripe for the picking.
The latter result drew ire from supporters, and according to the Daily Mail, some have directed much discontent toward Everton players on social media, and some even should up to the club's training ground to voice their displeasure. The Mail also reported that assistant coach Duncan Ferguson called out Everton players for their poor effort versus Liverpool, and some of those team members even shot back at Ferguson.
"We lost a lot of energy on the pitch, a lot of intensity in our play," Ancelotti, whose squad is 11th in the table, told Everton's official website following the Liverpool loss. "I know we have to work. So, the fact that we (will have had) time to prepare (for Brighton) will be good to improve the quality of our play and have more confidence on the pitch."\
That's proper coach-speak, sure, but the reality is another setback this weekend and Everton fans might come completely off the hinges. Perhaps like they felt after Lucas Digne's own goal in the 94th minute gave Brighton a stunning 3-2 home win over the Toffees on Oct. 26.
Everton led 2-1 in that contest following Dominic Calvert-Lewin's goal in the 74th minute. However, Neal Maupay equalised via penalty for the hosts in the 80th before the shocking finish.
The Seagulls (6-6-9), 14th in the table entering this matchday, have a 2-0 win over Bournemouth and 1-1 draw with Chelsea to follow an 0-2-2 stretch. Iranian midfielder Alireza Jahanbakhsh, playing in his second top-flight season, scored in each of those games and recorded a shot in last weekend's 1-0 loss to Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup.
It's been a massive progression for Jahanbakhsh, who failed to score in 19 league games for Brighton last season.
"He came here with a lot of expectations, and sometimes you need to adapt and learn," manager Graham Potter told Brighton's official website. "It is a testament to how well he has done that he has come through. I enjoy working with him, and I'd like to carry on what he is doing. He is affecting the game and enjoying making a contribution."
Everton's Calvert-Lewin has a team-leading eight Premier League goals.
Updated January 10, 2020