Everton vs Leeds preview: Combined XI ahead of Carlo Ancelotti's showdown with Marcelo Bielsa


Two intriguing Premier League sides will go head-to-head on Saturday evening when Everton welcome Leeds United to Goodison Park. 

Carlo Ancelotti and Marcelo Bielsa’s sides both earned plenty of praise following their eye-catching starts, but the optimism that underpinned their early season form has since faded somewhat. 

Both managers are blessed with an array of talented individuals to facilitate their respective philosophies, but who has the best squad at their disposal?

Well, one unofficial and naturally decisive way to jump to that conclusion is through the construction of a combined XI, and that’s exactly what we’ve done in anticipation of Saturday’s game. 

Including five Leeds players and six from Everton, here is GIVEMESPORT’S chosen combined XI…

Goalkeeper: Illan Meslier


Jordan Pickford and Illan Meslier’s careers are moving in opposite directions and the Leeds stopper’s inclusion here attests to that.

The maturity shown by the 20-year-old Frenchman is far from befitting of his baby face and notably slight frame, which has made him a target at set-pieces this season.

Mesiler has embraced the pressure, distributed with pinpoint accuracy while operating as an auxiliary deep-lying playmaker, and used his gangly frame to make a handful of fine saves. 

The erratic Pickford continues to lack conviction and misses out here as a result. 

Right-back: Luke Ayling

Luke Ayling

Luke Ayling is one of the key facilitators of Bielsa’s free-flowing philosophy and his indefatigable ability to burst up and down the right flank has been a standout feature of Leeds’ season thus far. 

A solid defensive presence and a constant threat on the overlap, with the pony-tailed assassin seeking to reach the byline wherever possible, Ayling just edges an impressive but ageing Seamus Coleman to the right-back berth. 

Centre-back: Michael Keane


No right-footed central defender at either club has managed to maintain flawless consistency this season but Michael Keane has been reassuring for the most part and scored twice in nine games.

Robin Koch looks an astute addition for the Whites but he’s been culpable of some costly lapses in concentration, while question marks remain over just how good Yerry Mina actually is. 

Centre-back: Liam Cooper 

Liam Cooper

The 29-year-old Leeds stalwart looks comfortable in the top-flight despite spending the majority of his career lower down the pyramid. 

His passion for the club, reading of the game and quality of distribution have all come to the fore in his six league outings, and one gets the feeling that his fitness will play a defining role in how Leeds fare this season. 

Left-back: Lucas Digne


Everton were rocked by news earlier this week that Lucas Digne could be ruled out for two months having sustained an ankle injury in training. 

The France international is one of the division’s best in his position, and he proved as much with two assists in the Toffees’ 3-2 win over Fulham last time out. 

Leeds’ makeshift left-backs Stuart Dallas and Ezgjan Alioski are simply no match for the former Barcelona ace. 

Right-holding-midfield: Kalvin Phillips 

Kalvin Phillips

The Yorkshire Pirlo has, as expected, stepped up to demands of Premier League football this season, earning his first England cap in the process.

With an impressive three tackles and 1.8 key passes per game, Kalvin Phillips has justified the hype that preceded his top-flight bow at the base of Bielsa’s midfield. 

If the 24-year-old can improve on an already rich vein of form, he could well rise above Declan Rice in Gareth Southgate’s pecking order ahead of Euro 2021. 

Left-holding-midfield: Allan


Everton’s bulldog of an operator has shown exactly why he was playing in the Champions League with Napoli before he was reunited with Ancelotti. 

The Brazilian has chomped into even more tackles than his midfield partner in this XI averaging 4.4 per game thus far, though he has been less influential in build-up with just 0.4 key passes per game. 

There are some things that simply can’t be quantified through raw data alone, and the best way to understand Allan’s brilliance is by watching him glide across the turf over a 90-minute fixture. 

Mateusz Klich and Abdoulaye Doucoure have also impressed of late but neither are as well suited to the holding position.

Right-winger: James Rodriguez 

James Rodriguez

Though James Rodriguez may have lost the early season zip and flair that made him such an instant sensation in English football, it would be criminal to omit him from this XI purely because he’s gone three games without a goal or an assist. 

Only Jack Harrison (2.6) has provided more key passes per game across Everton and Leeds’ squads this season, while he also ranks second to Richarlison for fouls won per game across the two clubs (2.4).

The Colombia international’s tendency to drift in from the right would create ample space for the overlapping Ayling to exploit, and his propensity to single-handedly alter the pattern of a game would give this XI a slice of star quality. 

Left-winger: Richarlison 


Another South American who has the spectacular in his locker, Richarlison is an absolute dead-cert for the left-wing position. 

His hot-headed streak got the better of him during the Merseyside derby in October and he’s only played 461 minutes of league football this season as a result of his three-match suspension having been given his marching orders.

In that time the 23-year-old has bagged one goal and two assists, but his natural goal scoring instincts and desire to make an impact in the penalty area will send those numbers soaring during the campaign. 

Second-striker (number ten): Rodrigo 


Make no mistake about it – we’ve not seen the best of Rodrigo yet. 

But even with that being said, the Spaniard has shown his elite level quality in fleeting bursts and his form at Valencia in La Liga, which saw him linked with Barcelona and a £55m Atletico Madrid move before his move to Elland Road, warrants his place in the line-up here. 

Rodrigo made a marked impression on proceedings as a substitute during Leeds’ recent 0-0 draw with Arsenal and almost broke the deadlock with a stunning effort that crashed the crossbar. It was a warning shot that displayed what he’s capable of and his impact earned esteemed praise from The Athletic’s highly respected Leeds correspondent Phil Hay. 

While speaking on the Phil Hay Show podcast (via MotLeedsNews), Hay had this to say about the 29-year-old: “He looks like a class act and looks better and better value at £27m each time he plays. He could be a huge player in the next 2-3 years.”

In the midst of Gylfi Sigurdsson’s perennial struggle to justify his £45m price-tag, and given Andre Gomes’ preference for a deeper midfield role, Rodrigo gets the nod here.

Perhaps Patrick Bamford will feel hard done by, but there isn’t much room for 4-4-2 in the modern day. 

Centre-forward: Dominic Calvert-Lewin


Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been arguably the surprise package of the season. 

With ten goals in nine Premier League appearances and an England breakthrough to boot, the towering forward has reached new heights and defied plenty of doubters in the process. 

If he continues in this vein of form he’ll have every chance of playing deputy to Harry Kane at Euro 2021, beating a collection of fine attackers including Danny Ings, Ollie Watkins, Callum Wilson, Tammy Abraham to the role in the process.

Here’s the line-up in full…

Combined XI
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