By Paddy Boyland
Everton head into Saturday’s game against Middlesbrough with a relatively clean bill of health.
With more or less a full squad from which to choose, manager Ronald Koeman’s main selection dilemma is whether to revert to the tried and tested 3-5-2 system that has served the Blues so well in recent months or persist with the same four-man defence that conceded three at home to Bournemouth last weekend.
That could mean a first-team recall for youngster Mason Holgate, with Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines pushed further forward as wing-backs.
In the middle of the park, the Dutchman has the envious task of choosing from a range of different options. £22m January signing Morgan Schneiderlin is almost certain to retain his place, as is the vastly improved Ross Barkley, but a question mark remains as to who will partner the duo.
Idrissa Gueye is still to feature since his return from AFCON and may have to be content with a place on the bench, while James McCarthy’s premature substitution during the Bournemouth victory raises questions over the Irishman’s fitness for the Riverside Stadium clash.
PFA Fans’ Player of the Month for January, Tom Davies, could be the player to profit from the uncertainty surrounding the pair’s involvement.
Up front, Kevin Mirallas’ extra experience may be enough to see off competition from Ademola Lookman. The former enjoyed a mixed full debut at Goodison Park- combining moments of inspiration with sloppy losses of the ball in his own half- and could be handed a cameo role as a result.
The fixture is likely to come too soon for Muhamed Besic, however, with the Bosnian recently returned to training following long-term injury.
Predicted Everton lineup: (3-5-2) Robles; Holgate, Williams, Funes Mori; Coleman, Schneiderlin, Davies, Barkley, Baines; Mirallas, Lukaku.