Leicester City vs. Everton: Key Selection Decisions for Roberto Martinez

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Leicester City vs. Everton: Key Selection Decisions for Roberto Martinez
Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images

Everton kick off a second season under Roberto Martinez on Saturday, travelling to the King Power Stadium to face Leicester City.

The Foxes are back in the big time after a 10-year absence, having won last season's Championship at a canter.

This clash has seen the highest proportion of draws (69 percent) in Premier League history, with 11 of the 16 top-flight meetings ending all square. Conversely, the Toffees are currently on a run of 16 games without a draw, the longest streak of any Premier League side.

Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

This match will also test the relevance of pre-season form. Everton suffered their worst set of friendly results since 1979, without a win in five games, while Leicester were unbeaten with six wins from sevenincluding a 1-0 victory over the Toffees in Thailand.

 

Official Team News

Before we dissect Roberto Martinez's selection calls, here's some of the pre-match dialogue filtering down from the club, per Everton's official website.

It seems Seamus Coleman remains a doubt for this match, having picked up an injury during the Toffees' first pre-season game with Tranmere Rovers.

Martinez must also decide how to use his World Cup contingent, with Kevin Mirallas and Romelu Lukaku unable to play any part in pre-season fixtures.

The Catalan discussed this further in the aforementioned report on the club website:

It’s about giving them a priority, which was to make sure they had a good break so they were refreshed completely and came back desperate to be involved in football. They have done that.

We don’t want to get a backlash halfway through the season because they never had a proper break. Romelu and Kevin have had that.

Elsewhere, there could be Everton debuts for Christian Atsu and Muhamed Besic, while Arouna Kone and Bryan Oviedo remain sidelined.

 

Are Mirallas and Lukaku Ready?

Paul Thomas/Getty Images

And so to selection. Martinez's most pressing concern is whether or not to draft in his two most explosive weapons, in Mirallas and Lukaku.

Both players led the way in goals and assists last season, and as pre-season has emphasised, their absence severely reduces the Toffees' attack. Take them away and you lose over a third of last season's goals (38 percent).

Mirallas is far more easily replaced, by either Aiden McGeady or Atsu, but the drop from Lukaku to the ever-willing Steven Naismith is far more substantial. Everton scored just 0.7 goals per game in the seven matches Lukaku missed last season, compared to 1.8 in the 31 he played.

The fact the Toffees face crunch ties with Arsenal and Chelsea in their next two games will also enter the manager's thinking.

Clint Hughes/Associated Press

 

Who Starts at Right-Back?

Just behind the decision over his Belgian duo comes Martinez's selection at right-back.

Again, the fall from Seamus Coleman to a replacement—either an out-of-position John Stones or the seasoned Tony Hibbert—is huge.

Paul Thomas/Getty Images

Coleman was Everton's Player of the Year last season, contributing seven goals to the Toffees' cause. He also created more chances from open play (45) and dribbled past more opponents (64) than any Premier League defender.

If the Irishman is deemed unfit, Stones and Hibbert will struggle to replicate his input, particularly in the final third.

 

Which Formation?

Away from individual calls, Martinez has to mull over his desired system.

The Catalan maintained David Moyes' 4-2-3-1 for much of last season but, as with last year, has experimented during the summer friendlies.

Everton have often used 4-3-3 in pre-season, dropping the No. 10—most commonly played by Ross Barkley last season—into a more orthodox midfield role. 

Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images

 

Which Attacking-Midfield Combination?

While other areas of his side remained consistent last season, Martinez compiled a pool of seven attacking midfielders who were persistently rotated.

This kept the competition fierce and enabled the Catalan to manipulate form and make several decisive substitutions.

Atsu's arrival replaces Gerard Deulofeu and once again leaves Martinez with seven players for three positions.

He will need three of Mirallas, Atsu, Naismith, McGeady, Barkley, Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar to start and will use most of the others for impact off the bench.

 

Predicted XI

Therefore, key dilemmas officially assessed, what will Martinez do? Here's a prediction for his first starting XI of the season:

EFC LCFC - Football tactics and formations

Despite several summer jaunts with 4-3-3, Martinez is more likely to return to his tried-and-tested 4-2-3-1.

Tim Howard will start in goal and will be joined by Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin and Leighton Baines as three of his back four. Pre-season would indicate Hibbert is the man to replace Colemanwho may be saved for Arsenalbut Stones' potential could still swing the selection his way.

Which player not in this XI would you start?

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Gareth Barry and James McCarthy are guaranteed picks in midfield, with Besic likely to begin his Everton career as a substitute.

Balance is key to Martinez's attacking combinations. At least one of Osman, Pienaar and Naismith will always feature in his three, helping to build combination play and condense midfield when not in possession.

Here, Pienaar may earn the nod to partner the more explosive Barkley and McGeady.

While Mirallas can be more easily preserved, Martinez may not be able to resist the lure of throwing Lukaku in from the start. This would also leave Naismith competing for an attacking-midfield berth,

Prediction: Leicester 1-1 Everton

 

Statistics via WhoScored.com and Squawka.

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