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To say that 2021 was a mixed bag for Everton would be a true understatement, but the Toffees ultimately ended the year on a relative high note with a point at Stamford Bridge.
With clashes against Burnley and Newcastle United both being called off as outfits up and down the country work around depleted squads, Everton head into 2022 with much work to be done to save Rafael Benitez‘s bacon.
Now 15th in the table with 19 points to their name from a possible 51, Benitez’s bright start to life at Goodison Park has not had the desired effect over the winter, as Everton sit just eight points above Burnley having played a game more.
The Toffees managed to win just one of their last five home Premier League games in 2021, and history is not on their side either, as they have suffered defeat in each of their last four opening top-flight matches of the calendar year.
A tally of 10 goals conceded in their most recent four encounters at Goodison Park does not bode well for the hosts either, and the pressure is weighing heavily on Benitez’s shoulders to turn his side’s fortunes around in the New Year.
Everton would have expected to welcome Dominic Calvert-Lewin back for the clash with Newcastle, but Salomon Rondon and Richarlison remain in the infirmary.
There is optimism over Tom Davies‘s fitness for the visit of the Seagulls, but Andros Townsend and Yerry Mina also occupy spots in the treatment room.
The identities of Everton’s COVID-affected contingent were not released, although Benitez will expect to welcome them back for the New Year given their ample time for rest and recovery.
As for Brighton, Potter has no fresh concerns to contend with from Wednesday’s game, but he is still sweating over the fitness of Leandro Trossard and his tight hamstring.
Jeremy Sarmiento, Lewis Dunk and the COVID-positive Jurgen Locadia are also set to remain sidelined for their first fixture of 2022, and Welbeck’s last-minute heroics may not be enough to see him displace Neal Maupay in the final third.
Enock Mwepu and Adam Webster both have strong chances of being rotated into the side, although Potter may save the bulk of his changes for the FA Cup showdown with West Bromwich Albion on January 8.
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Everton possible starting lineup:
Pickford; Coleman, Branthwaite, Keane, Godfrey; Allan, Doucoure, Gomes; Gray, Calvert-Lewin, Gordon
Brighton & Hove Albion possible starting lineup:
Sanchez; Lamptey, Veltman, Burn, Cucurella; Bissouma, Mwepu; Mac Allister, Lallana, March; Maupa