Marouane Fellaini and Denis Stracqualursi, two of Everton's best players over the last month. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Everton will host Blackpool in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup on Saturday with their confidence boosted after outplaying Chelsea's millionaires in a Premiership fixture last weekend. Rumours continue to swirl around Goodison regarding the future of manager David Moyes, but that has been a constant at the club the last couple of years. At stake this weekend for the Toffees is a spot in the quarter finals, representing the sole opportunity for some silverware this season.
This will not be a cakewalk for the home side as the Championship-contending Tangerines remain unbeaten in 2012 and come off a 3-0 hiding of Sheffield Wednesday in the Fourth Round replay. Last season in the Premiership Blackpool proved to be one of the more entertaining squads with their open, attacking style and manager Ian Holloway has maintained that 4-3-3 formation this year. A repeat of last season's 5-3 Everton win could be likely if Moyes decides to be brave and venture to a more attack-minded gameplan.
This fixture will also mark the last game for Landon Donovan at Everton as his loan period ends and he returns to LA Galaxy in preparation for the beginning of their new season. However Donovan reportedly has the flu and might miss out on a home farewell. He has restated his interest in returning to play for the Toffees again in the future which will come as good news to the fans. Donovan has managed to change the mindset of the team with his hard running and offensive vision, and the one-two punch that he and Steven Pienaar offer will be missed. Meanwhile, new Everton signing Portugal Under-21 midfielder Francisco Junior has already joined his new teammates at the Finch Farm training ground. Moyes expects the former Benfica and Manchester City prospect to compete for a starting spot very soon.
The big news for Moyes is that Seamus Coleman is fit again and hot the ground running scoring in the reserves game this week. Phil Jagielka, Leon Osman and Jack Rodwell remain sidelined while the other new signing Nikica Jelavic missed the last game with a strained muscle and is doubtful this week while Pienaar is Cup-tied.
Forward Matt Phillips has been in sparkling form for Blackpool as they have marched up the Championship table but missed Tuesday's 3-1 win at Doncaster with a thigh strain and could be a game-time decision for Holloway. The Seasiders have had good fortune on the injury front with Phillips being the only doubt.
Keys To The Game
Without midfielders Pienaar and possibly Donovan, this could be a return to the Everton of two months ago that struggled to pose any kind of attacking threat. Moyes might be forced to start off with Drenthe and Coleman as poor man's versions of the wily wingers. Denis Stracqualursi, with his tireless running and resilient persistence, has been worthy of his starting place and his 'Denis The Menace' nickname.
Ian Holloway has gone on record to say that he feels his squad this year is even better than his Premiership one from last season and his aggressive, fear-none attacking approach could make for an exciting match-up against an Everton defence that has heroically staved off the vaunted forward lines of Manchester City and Chelsea in the last few weeks.
- Everton have been eliminated at Goodison Park in the FA Cup in four of the last five seasons.
- Two of their last three losses in the FA Cup have been against lower division opposition.
- The Toffees home form has only improved in recent times, and they are 5-3-5 at home this year.
- Blackpool have scored the most goals on the road in the Championship, with 27 tallies.
- They have, however, conceded the third-most on the road in the Championship.
- Blackpool last beat Everton in 1966, when they were both in the First Division.