Newcastle United boss Steve Bruce has left Carlo Ancelotti in an ideal position ahead of Everton’s trip to St. James’ Park on Sunday.
Bruce has been full of praise for the defensive work of midfielders Ryan Fraser and Miguel Almiron in the Toon’s recent Premier League fixtures, and is likely to ask the duo to again aid efforts to thwart the Toffees this weekend to avoid a home defeat.
It was a tactic the Magpies opted for against Wolverhampton Wanderers in their last top-flight fixture, allowing the Molineux natives to enjoy 63.4 per cent of the possession before salvaging a 1-1 draw in the 89th-minute with only their second shot on target, per WhoScored.
Everton will arrive on Tyneside reeling from a first defeat of the season to Southampton last time out, but remain atop the league standings on goal difference to Merseyside neighbours Liverpool.
The Saints opted to go for the jugular against Everton with 13 shots, while enjoying more of the ball (54.3%), more passes (610 to 509), attempting more dribbles (26 to 21, with 18 successful) and restricting Ancelotti’s men to just two efforts on target, per WhoScored.
Nevertheless, Bruce is unlikely to try similar this weekend and instead, favour the relentless workrate of Almiron and Fraser.
“If you watch him [Almiron] week in, week out – it has been difficult to leave him out, because of what he gives you,” Bruce said, via quotes by the Chronicle. “I have asked him to play the left side of midfield at Wolves. He was tireless in his work.
“Him and Ryan Fraser ran themselves into [a] standstill. That’s what you have to do when they are playing the way they are.”
Bruce persisting with a defensive display will be a welcome relief for Ancelotti, as it will offer Everton the perfect chance to bounce back from a first defeat of the season by playing their own brand of football rather than trying to soak up the pressure once more.
Neither Fraser nor Almiron are superb defensively, either, with the former only winning 0.5 tackles a game in the Premier League this season, while the latter has been dribbled past on average 1.4 times a match.
Ancelotti will see the wide duo as the perfect players to exploit this weekend, especially if the Italian is able to call on James Rodriguez following the Colombian’s injury scare.
Rodriguez appeared to be struggling in the closing stages of the Southampton loss and was scheduled for scans this week, though Ancelotti was not overly concerned at the early prognosis.
“I think we have to check in the next few days,” he said, via quotes by the Liverpool Echo. “He was tired at the end, he felt his muscle a little bit. But I don’t think it’s a big problem. It’s true that the game was difficult for everyone.”
Rodriguez would be expected to play an instrumental role against Newcastle should he overcome the muscle issue, having thus far record Everton’s highest number of key balls (18), big chances created (five), accurate final third passes (70), successful dribbles (16) and taken their third-most shots (10) in the Premier League this season, per SofaScore.
The former Real Madrid ace’s 72.73% dribble success rate will also come in handy in attempting to exploit Fraser and Almiron, with Richarlison – who completes 84.21% of his dribbles – still suspended.
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