Leeds v Everton Preview: Do We Actually Know Our Strongest Line-Up Yet?

A win against a Premiership side will be an important boost to Leeds' confidence ahead of the season opener, but there are issues that need resolving.
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Patrick Gunn
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A win against a Premiership side will be an important boost to Leeds' confidence ahead of the season opener, but there are issues that need resolving.
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Here we go then, the final pre-season game before the big kick off next week. Everton visit Elland Road fresh off the back of two friendly victories in Scotland (beating Hearts 3-1, and Dundee 2-0), which followed their games against Stoke and Arsenal in Singapore (0-0 & 1-3 respectively). The Blues boast an impressive squad, which has only been strengthened over the summer with the additions of Tom Cleverley and Gerard Deulofeu, while Seamus Coleman and John Stones have remained at Goodison despite interest from Man Utd and Chelsea. With no European games this season, I envisage Everton pushing for the top 6 in the Premier League, which means we'll be facing a tough test come kick-off.

With only a week to go until Burnley arrive to test their credentials for an immediate return to the top flight, it's safe to say that we, along with the management team, are still a little unsure as to what our strongest lineup is. Given the choice, I would personally stick with XI that lined up against Hoffenheim in Norway, with Adeyemi playing alongside Cook and Mowatt in midfield, although Doukara on the left wing still doesn't look right to me. That being said, what other option do we have other than moving Charlie Taylor forward again? Casper Sloth certainly didn't work out there, and I wouldn't want Mowatt wasted out wide.

Injury-wise, other than Luke Murphy's absence, only Tommaso Bianchi has been confirmed "out" by Uwe Rosler, although rumours have been circulating about the fitness of Chris Wood. The Italian midfielder requires knee surgery which he will be having on Monday. Lewis Cook was also taken off against Hoffenheim as a precaution, but is apparently fine for Saturday's game, though it remains to be seen whether or not he will feature. If Wood is injured or rested, then Mirco Antenucci could step up to take his place, the Italian scoring in a 2-0 win against Notts County in a behind closed doors game on Wednesday evening. As for Cook, Kalvin Phillips was brought on, and performed well, against Hoffenheim, but Casper Sloth could be given the nod if the 18 year old is rested.

Everton's injury list is a tad longer, and includes some fairly important players. Leighton Baines, Steven Pienaar and Bryan Oviedo are all out, but I would expect Roberto Martinez to have more than enough squad depth at his disposal. One player that will not be featuring is former academy member Luke Garbutt, who finalised his season-long loan deal to Fulham earlier this week, while fellow ex-Leeds man Aaron Lennon has not yet sorted a return to Goodison Park after spending the latter half of last season on loan with the Blues.

Belgian wrecking-ball Romelu Lukaku has been on good form in pre-season, but Everton's main striker limped off with a suspected hamstring injury in their last game against Dundee. Whether he'll be back to face us is unknown, but he could be replaced by any one of Steven Naismith, Arouna Kone or young Conor McAleny, who scored against the Scottish side along with Ross Barkley. After last season's 11th place finish, there's no doubt that Martinez' squad will want to prove themselves over the coming campaign, and a strong finish to pre-season will certainly help matters.

As for our preparations this summer, I think we can reasonably pleased on the whole. Player recruitment hasn't been fantastic, the team still lacking any cutting edge out wide bar Sam Byram's push to RW, but some promising displays in losses against Frankfurt and Hoffenheim have raised my expectations after 1-1 draws with Harrogate and York. Regardless of which players are included in the starting XI, Rosler's expectations will be the same; press the opposition, hit them on the counter, try to win the game. Everton may be, undoubtedly, the stronger side, but they won't be given an easy job in front of the Elland Road crowd. A strong performance against a Premiership team could be just the boost we need going into the season proper, a weak one will only serve to highlight the problems that remain from the last campaign.