Everton manager Marco Silva has urged his side to embrace the challenge of taking on Premier League leaders Liverpool in Wednesday's Merseyside derby.

The 234th edition of one of English football's most famous fixtures takes place with the city's two clubs experiencing sharply contrasting fortunes.

Liverpool are undefeated and eight points clear of nearest challengers Leicester City in the Premier League.

Leicester ensured the gap did not increase last weekend thanks to a dramatic stoppage-time winner against Everton, who are fourth bottom and two points above the relegation zone.

Nevertheless, Silva wants his players to grasp the opportunity presented to them this midweek and pursue the club's first win at Anfield since 1999.

"There are many, many things to win in the game," Silva told a pre-match news conference, on the day star forward Richarlison lifted some of the gloom at Goodison Park by signing a new long-term contract.

"It will be tough. They are having a very, very good season. They are top of the table. At home they are beating all the teams they are playing against.

"The record for us is not good enough. Twenty years without a win there is a long time for our club and our fans.

"Look to that situation as a good opportunity for us to change what was the last 20 years in this football club."

Everton acquitted themselves well on the other side of Stanley Park last season, eventually falling to a 1-0 defeat as Divock Origi netted an injury-time winner that was made possible by a bizarre Jordan Pickford error.

"One of the toughest games they had last season at home was against us. It was a really good game from both teams and we want to embrace the challenge," Silva said.

"You know how it is in a derby - the form and who is on top in the table is not important because you are playing in a derby. We have to go with that thinking in our mind and embrace the challenge.

"The result [last season] [was unfair. We didn't deserve it at all. It was hard for us.

"In that game I saw Everton Football Club really embracing the challenge, playing face to face with them at Anfield.

"We were in a good moment in our season, with our full squad in good shape. If we can repeat the same type of performance, it will be really good."

Everton will face Liverpool once again in January after the FA Cup third-round draw paired them together – an outcome Silva felt was less than ideal for each club.

Absentees Seamus Coleman and Fabian Delph will have to target that game after failing to recover in time for Wednesday's match, although forward Theo Walcott is back from a bout of illness.

"Theo will be okay," Silva said. "He was sick and worked the last two sessions with the team. He will be in conditions to be in the squad.

"Coleman tried this morning again but is not in conditions to be fit for the match and Delph is not training with the team. Let's see in the next few days."

Everton forward Richarlison has signed a new deal that will keep him at Goodison Park until 2024.

The 22-year-old was signed from Watford in July 2018 for a fee that could rise to £50million and has largely impressed during his time on Merseyside.

He scored 13 goals in 38 appearances across all competitions last season, while his header in Sunday's 2-1 defeat to Leicester City took his tally to six in the current term.

Marco Silva's side are languishing in 17th in the Premier League after picking up just four wins from their opening 14 games.

"I intend to be here a long time," Richarlison told evertontv. "This was the club which gave me the opportunity to show my football.

"It was here I managed to get a place in the Brazil national team and it was here I have scored lots of goals in the Premier League.

"The club trusts me and I trust them. The supporters have a lot of affection for me and I try to give back all this affection as much as possible on the pitch.

"I go out and put my life on the line for them. I try to sweat blood and tears for this club. I intend to continue honouring the shirt and making the fans happy. And I hope they continue singing my name."

Richarlison has scored six goals in 19 appearances for Brazil, with all his appearances for his national side coming after his move to the Toffees.

Jurgen Klopp has sympathy for Marco Silva but says he is not surprised the Everton manager's position is subject to fevered speculation.

Silva has overseen a poor start to the season, with a last-gasp defeat to Leicester City on Sunday leaving them languishing 17th in the Premier League.

The Portuguese takes his beleaguered side to Anfield for the Merseyside derby on Wednesday knowing another defeat could see him lose his job.

Klopp saw enough in the defeat to the Foxes to suggest the Toffees are capable of turning a corner but knows a club with Everton's ambitions can only remain patient for so long.

"Of course, I have sympathy [with Silva] because I know how difficult the life of a manager can be," the German told a media conference.

"The last thing Marco needs now is that I feel sorry for him, but I am really on his side because I know about the job.

"The last game against Leicester was really good in a changed system. They caused Leicester a lot of problems and had their chances. In all other situations that would be a positive sign."

Asked if Everton are unfortunate to be just one place outside the relegation zone, Klopp responded: "The table tells the full truth at the end of the season. Come on, if you go through that squad, I'd say that is a really good squad but it is not 100 per cent right and not clicking.

"There is a lot of pressure there as Everton are a very ambitious club, rightly so, and if it doesn't go the right way the pressure increases pretty quickly.

"They are not the only ones in this situation; this league is really difficult for all of us and we have to respect that."

Klopp considers himself to be fortunate that his position at Liverpool has not been under threat since arriving in October 2015 and says owners can sometimes be too quick to dismiss a manager.

"In general, if you are in the job like mine then there is pressure there," he explained. "You have to deliver and if it doesn't work out they have to try something else.

"The most important thing before you sign a manager is that the people who sign the manager look for the right things. There are a lot of really good managers out there, but it needs to fit to the club and the ambitions. If it does, then everybody can be happy at the end.

"But, in general, the pressure comes too quickly and the decisions are made too quickly, because people are not patient enough."

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp hailed Lionel Messi as "probably the best player I have seen in my life" but thinks Virgil van Dijk should have been awarded the Ballon d'Or.

Barcelona superstar Messi the prestigious honour for a record sixth time on Monday, with organisers France Football declaring his seven-point margin over Van Dijk to be one of the narrowest in the award's 63-year history.

The Barcelona captain finished top of the count with 686 points, just ahead of Van Dijk's 679.

While recognising Messi as the greatest player of his generation, Klopp feels Van Dijk should have been rewarded with the prize for his stellar contribution to Liverpool's Champions League win last season.

He told a media conference: "The decisions are made by journalists, right? I see it slightly different. Lionel Messi is probably the best player I have seen in my life, but last season I cannot remember a more impressive season by a defender ever.

"It would have been right if Virgil had won as well. We won the Champions League and he had an outstanding season."

Van Dijk is likely to line up at the heart of Liverpool's defence for the Merseyside derby against Everton at Anfield on Wednesday.

Monday's FA Cup third-round draw conjured up the exact same fixture for the first week of January, with Klopp revealing he would have preferred an easier tie to kick off their cup campaign.

"I didn't run through my living room and celebrate," he said. "It's not exactly what you wish for, but we have no problem playing Everton. It's a big game against big opponents. Obviously, we start the hard way. We cannot change that and we have time to prepare for that Everton game after this one."

Klopp confirmed Liverpool have no new injury concerns for Wednesday's game but says Joel Matip has still not recovered from a knee injury, which has kept him out since the 1-1 draw with Manchester United on October 20.

"Joel needs a bit more time," he explained. "It's healing but not exactly what we wish for."

Real Madrid have made Fabian Ruiz their top transfer target.

According to reports, "negotiations have accelerated" as the Spanish heavyweights aim to take advantage of the disarray at Napoli.

But the midfielder also has high-profile admirers in England and France.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID STEP UP FABIAN INTEREST

Napoli midfielder Fabian is a man in demand.

Madrid appear to be in pole position, with Cadena SER claiming the Spanish giants are "very serious" about taking the 23-year-old to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Negotiations over a contract extension at Napoli are said to have stopped and the Spain international is reportedly warm to the idea of joining up with Zinedine Zidane's side.

However, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain could look to force a three-way bidding war for the Spain international, who has previously been linked to Barcelona.

ROUND-UP

- Ex-Valencia head coach Marcelino has emerged as a left-field managerial candidate for Arsenal and Everton, according to the Daily Mail. The 54-year-old lost his job at the Mestalla in September following a reported falling out with owner Peter Lim.

- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fears he will be sacked if Manchester United lose their next two games against Tottenham and bitter rivals City, says The Sun.

- Former Premier League striker-turned-reporter Jan Aage Fjortoft claims Liverpool are favourites to land Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho – but the winger will cost the Premier League leaders €130million.

- Chelsea have offered little-used striker Olivier Giroud to Serie A sides Milan and Inter, according to CalcioMercato.

Barcelona are keeping tabs on 16-year-old PSG midfielder Edouard Michut, reports Le Parisien.

Liverpool have been drawn at home to Merseyside rivals Everton in the FA Cup third round, while holders Manchester City will start the defence of their title at home to third-tier Port Vale.

The Toffees face Jurgen Klopp's side on Wednesday in the Premier League and will make the short trip to Anfield for a second time this season during the first week of January.

Pep Guardiola's City thumped Watford 6-0 in last season's final and have been given a favourable draw to kick-start their 2019-20 campaign, with John Askey's League Two side pitching up at the Etihad Stadium.

Manchester United face a difficult away tie against Premier League rivals Wolves, who knocked them out of the competition last season's quarter-finals, while Arsenal welcome Championship leaders Leeds United to the Emirates Stadium.

New Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho takes his side to Middlesbrough, managed by former Spurs defender Jonathan Woodgate, and Chelsea host Nottingham Forest.

Ties will take place between January 3 and 6.

Marco Silva's prospects at Everton look bleak. Sunday's last-gasp defeat to high-flying Leicester City has left the Toffees in 17th and a trip to Anfield does not present the ideal remedy.

Kelechi Iheanacho's VAR–assisted strike in second-half stoppage time cost Everton a share of the spoils at the King Power Stadium, a day short of the anniversary of Jordan Pickford's calamity gifting Liverpool all three points in the first Merseyside derby of last season.

Jurgen Klopp's side have gone from strength-to-strength since then, losing just one Premier League match – to Manchester City in January. 

Everton gained a modicum of revenge in March, when a goalless draw at Goodison Park ultimately proved costly for the Reds, who missed out on the league title by two points.

However, it is difficult to find more contrasting fortunes at present, with Liverpool eight points clear at the top and Everton languishing just two points above the drop zone.

The Toffees have a torrid recent record against Liverpool and, if reports are to be believed, Wednesday's meeting at Anfield could well prove to be Silva's final game of a tumultuous 18-month spell.

Yet, while Silva may ultimately pay the price for a dismal start to the season should Liverpool claim an expected win, Everton's woeful form against their neighbours stretches back much further.

TWENTY YEARS OF HURT

You have to go back over 20 years – to September 1999 – for Everton's last win at Anfield in any competition; Kevin Campbell was the Toffees' hero in a 1-0 success.

Liverpool and Everton dominated English football throughout the 1980s, but since the start of the Premier League era, the derby has become significantly more one-sided.

Everton have just nine wins out of 54 games, with Liverpool claiming 23 victories, while there have been 22 draws.

Seven of Everton's triumphs in that run have come at Goodison, with just two at Anfield, where Liverpool have won 13 times, with the points shared on 12 occasions.

Liverpool have scored 72 goals against Everton in the Premier League, with the Toffees – who have conceded 40 at Anfield – managing just 46 in return.

THE STATS DON'T LIE

Liverpool's dominance over Everton is backed up by even more damning statistics. 

Everton's win percentage against Liverpool is their third-lowest against a Premier League opponent – 16.7 per cent, or nine wins from 54 meetings.

Only against Arsenal (14.8 per cent) and Tottenham (14.5 per cent) do the Toffees have a worse win percentage against in the Premier League era.

Indeed, since their victory at Anfield in 1999, Everton have managed just four wins over Liverpool in all competitions, the most recent of which came in October 2010.

Sam Allardyce was in charge on the last occasion Everton avoided defeat at the ground they used to occupy before Liverpool were formed, with Wayne Rooney's penalty securing a 1-1 draw in December 2017.

Before that, a thunderbolt from Phil Jagielka ensured a share of the spoils back in 2014 under Roberto Martinez, who suffered two 4-0 defeats at Anfield in the space of three seasons.

LIVERPOOL'S DECADE OF DOMINANCE

While Everton's record since the start of the Premier League makes for grim reading, their dreadful form in derbies is magnified when narrowing it down to the past nine years – since Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta led the way to a 2-0 win at Goodison Park in October 2010.

Everton had the better of the derbies in 2010-11, following up their triumph with a 2-2 draw at Anfield the following January.

Since the start of 2011-12, Everton have failed to win any league matches against Liverpool, while their points per game average of 0.56 is their lowest against any opponent in this period.

Liverpool have won seven of the 16 league meetings in this time, with Everton managing draws on nine occasions.

Of the top-flight opponents Everton have faced more than five times since the 2011-12 campaign began, Liverpool are the only team they have not beaten at all, with the Toffees having triumphed twice over Spurs, three times against Arsenal and Manchester City, and four times over Chelsea.

Marco Silva may be denied the chance to manage in another Merseyside derby.

Everton chiefs will reportedly begin the week with frank talks over the under-pressure Portuguese's future and could choose to sever ties.

The Toffees are due to head to Anfield on Wednesday, fresh from the late 2-1 loss to Leicester City that left the 42-year-old hanging on by a thread.

 

TOP STORY – SILVA ON CUSP OF EVERTON SACK

After close to a season and a half in charge, Everton boss Silva could be relieved of his duties on Monday.

Various UK newspaper reports indicate his position will be discussed at a meeting of executives two days out from the midweek clash with bitter rivals Liverpool.

Silva took charge in May 2018 and guided the Goodison Park outfit to eighth in his first season, but results have soured this term.

Everton have lost eight of their 14 Premier League fixtures and sit just above the drop zone.

ROUND-UP

- Kylian Mbappe has left Paris Saint-Germain waiting for an answer on contract discussions as he prefers to focus on the season at hand, says TF1 programme Telefoot.

- Serie A champions Juventus have started scouting emerging Brescia centre-back Andrea Cistana and will be closely monitoring his performances in December, according to CalcioMercato.

- Goal-shy Milan are preparing to celebrate their 120th birthday on December 15 and hope to mark the occasion by confirming the capture of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, claims Corriere della Sera. The Rossoneri have scored 13 times in 14 league fixtures this term.

- The English and Irish football associations are set to go ahead with a joint bid to host the 2030 World Cup following an encouraging feasibility study, reports The Times.

- Celtic are tracking 21-year-old Ivorian midfielder Ismaila Soro, says the Daily Record. Soro is contracted to Israeli side Bnei Yehuda.

Kelechi Iheanacho benefitted from a huge VAR assist as Leicester City continued to hang on to the coattails of Liverpool on a day when Arsenal started the post-Unai Emery era with a draw.

With Manchester City and Chelsea suffering unlikely setbacks on Saturday, Liverpool took the opportunity to extend their lead to 11 points and it appeared the Foxes were not well placed to cut that gap after falling behind at home to Everton. 

However, a last-gasp technological intervention sparked wild celebrations at the King Power Stadium as Leicester completed a come-from-behind 2-1 triumph.

Also on Sunday, there was more frustration for Manchester United and interim boss Freddie Ljungberg saw Arsenal twice come from behind at Carrow Road.


FOXES GRATEFUL TO VAR

Leicester were in danger at the break after Richarlison headed home to put Everton into a half-time lead, while Ben Chilwell saw a penalty for a trip from Mason Holgate overturned by VAR.

Jamie Vardy's neat strike – his 13th in the league this season – brought Leicester level, though, before drama ensued deep into second-half stoppage time.

Iheanacho latched on to Ricardo Pereira's excellent throughball and rifled his shot past Jordan Pickford, only for the linesman to curtail his knee-sliding celebration.

But a check with the video assistant showed Yerry Mina had played the striker onside to leave Leicester in outright second and pile more pressure on under-fire Toffees boss Marco Silva.


SAME OLD ARSENAL

Emery may have departed Arsenal but it was a familiar story for the Gunners defensively under Ljungberg.

Norwich stole ahead when Kenny McLean was afforded too much space to pick out Teemu Pukki, whose deflected effort beat Bernd Leno after David Luiz had backed off the striker.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang levelled from the penalty spot at the second attempt having been handed a reprieve when his first attempt was saved by Tim Krul, only for VAR to spot an encroachment.

Aubameyang levelled again in the second half but only after more poor defending had seen Todd Cantwell put Norwich in a 2-1 half-time lead. 


RED DEVILS STRUGGLE AT HOME

Manchester United were again off the pace in a 2-2 draw against Aston Villa, who led through Jack Grealish's stunning curling opener.

Marcus Rashford saw a header from Andreas Pereira's whipped cross cannon off the post and hit Tom Heaton on the back before nestling in the goal to bring United level and they led when Victor Lindelof nodded home in the 64th minute.

Just two minutes later, United were caught napping when Matt Targett clipped a second ball in from a cleared corner and Tyrone Mings volleyed past David de Gea.


DOHERTY PAYS TRIBUTE TO AFOBE

Two teams impressing in the top half of the table played out a 1-1 draw at Molineux as Wolves came back against Sheffield United – the visitors leading through Lys Mousset's second-minute goal.

Matt Doherty levelled in the second half and celebrated by kissing and raising his black armband, which was being worn in honour of former Wolves striker Benik Afobe, who announced the tragic loss of his two-year-old daughter Amora on Sunday. 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has time on his side at Manchester United.

Mauricio Pochettino's name looms large at Old Trafford but it seems the incumbent is going nowhere.

According to reports, Solskjaer will not be sacked regardless of whether United qualify for Europe this season.

 

TOP STORY – SOLSKJAER FREE FROM EUROPEAN ANXIETY

Failure to secure a top-six finish in the Premier League will not cost Solskjaer his job, reports the Daily Star.

United are struggling for consistency and appear destined to miss out on the Champions League places.

But while executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward is "long-time admirer" of Pochettino, he will reportedly keep faith with Solskjaer even if middling results end in the Red Devils missing out on Europe.

ROUND-UP

- Quique Sanchez Flores' ill-fated second spell in charge of Watford will result in his dismissal on Sunday, according to The Athletic.

- It could be one Spaniard out and another in at Arsenal. The Mirror claims Manchester City assistant Mikel Arteta is now top of the club's shortlist of potential replacements for Unai Emery.

- Everton want Bournemouth boss and boyhood Toffees fan Eddie Howe to succeed the under-pressure Marco Silva, reports the Mirror.

- Borussia Dortmund have dispatched scouts to watch teenage Sao Paulo winger Antony, says Goal, as the Bundesliga side line up a replacement for Jadon Sancho.

- Fiorentina have lost patience with Vincenzo Montella and are set to replace him with Gennaro Gattuso in a mirror image of the move Milan made two years ago. Calciomercato claims the change is imminent, with the Viola stinging from a 1-0 loss to Lecce.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has told his players to forget about their 11-point lead at the top of the Premier League and focus on the visit of Everton.

The Reds capitalised on Manchester City's 2-2 draw at Newcastle with a 2-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion at Anfield on Saturday.

It was Liverpool's 13th win from 14 league games this season and gives them an even bigger cushion over defending champions City, although Leicester can cut the gap to eight points on Sunday.

With just over a third of the season gone, Liverpool fans are already dreaming of ending their 30-year wait for the league title.

However, Klopp only has eyes for Wednesday's Merseyside derby with Everton.

"We don't think about the points gap or whatever," Klopp said in his post-match press conference.

"People told me tonight already that we are 11 points ahead but Leicester play on Sunday, so it still could be eight. That's how I see it.

"None of these 13 games we won were easy, we didn't feel that for a second. We only have to make sure we are ready always – and always for the next game.

"Result-wise, it is an incredible period for sure, but we don't want to think about the last 14 games – we actually are concerned about the next one, which is on Wednesday against Everton and is a big one."

Liverpool secured victory thanks to a brace of first-half headers from defender Virgil van Dijk. 

However, a red card for goalkeeper Alisson – who will miss the clash with Everton – and a goal from Lewis Dunk set up a tense finale.

Klopp hailed the contribution of second-choice keeper Adrian after he came off the bench at a chilly Anfield and made an important late save from Aaron Mooy.

"We had to bring on a frozen goalkeeper pretty much!" added the German.

"Everybody sitting here is probably not really warm yet, but imagine you go there in shorts, a really thin shirt and some gloves which are not made for keeping you warm.

"We kept on fighting and Adrian especially helped us a lot.

"With his cold feet, he couldn't shoot the ball as far as he wanted. In the end, it kept it a bit interesting but it's only important that we won the game and that's what we did."

Brighton head coach Graham Potter praised the positive endeavour shown by his side, who made life difficult for Liverpool in the closing stages.

"I thought it was a performance of great heart, courage and quality against a fantastic team, and at times the Anfield crowd had to get behind their side because we were really in the game, especially after the sending-off," Potter said.

"It's never easy when you are playing against the European champions and the top team in the Premier League but, at the end, we were pushing strong."

Director of football Marcel Brands says the Everton board is "united" in their support of coach Marco Silva and also revealed star striker Richarlison is close to agreeing a new deal at Goodison Park.

Last weekend's 2-0 home defeat to Norwich City again prompted speculation over Silva's future with Everton 16th in the Premier League table, four points off the relegation places.

But Brands is confident improvement is round the corner after sitting down and discussing the situation with the Portuguese.

He told the club's website: "Everyone at the club was disappointed last Saturday, it was a poor performance and a poor result, something we didn't expect after the last few weeks.

"If we talk about improvement, we talk about a couple of weeks ago when we played Burnley. After that game, as a board, we sat down with Marco to see how we could help him, how we can improve results.

"We spoke with individual players, did some team building activities, spoke with staff members and after that we got a few good results.

"We also got a good result just before the break against Southampton so you don't expect a result like last Saturday against Norwich.

"But it's important that everyone feels that we can turn it around to get better results.

"Most people know that I always go to the dressing room after the game, to see how the atmosphere is.

"Of course, everyone was disappointed last Saturday but you saw in the eyes of the players the fire that they want to resolve this, to turn this around - together with the whole staff."

Brands believes stability is the best way forward for a club that had genuine aspirations of a European place this season.

He added: "If you look at our ranking and the results, we expect a lot better.

"We have enough quality and, although we were a bit unlucky with some VAR decisions and injuries, we have a good squad and we have to improve our results.

"That's also what Marco is working on, together with the players.

"As a board we have to support him. We know in sport you have to perform and that goes for the manager, the players, everyone, but it's especially important at this club after a couple of years of instability to stick together.

"The most important thing is that the squad feels it can improve and the staff feel they can improve, we have to support them. As a director of football and a board, we are united in that and it's important we stick together to improve our situation."

One potential piece of good news for Everton fans is that star striker Richarlison is set to extend his stay on Merseyside.

The Brazil international joined from Watford in July 2018 for a fee that could rise to £50 million and is close to agreeing a new deal that would keep him under contract for another five years.

Brands said: "We have to look at the positives ahead and one during a week like this is that we are now busy with the last details of extending the contract of one of our key players Richarlison until 2024. That is a positive for the long term."

Jadon Sancho looks set to leave Borussia Dortmund sooner rather than later.

Sancho has established himself as one of the best young players in Europe since leaving Manchester City for Dortmund in 2017.

However, the 19-year-old's stay in Germany appears to be coming to an end.

 

TOP STORY – DORTMUND READY TO PART WITH SANCHO

Dortmund are ready to do business and sell in-demand star Sancho, according to the Independent.

The teenager is wanted by Manchester United, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Barcelona after starring since arriving in the Bundesliga.

But Dortmund are willing to let the England international leave as soon as January due to a breakdown in relationships.

The winger was benched for the midweek Champions League defeat at Barcelona, having felt humiliated by his first-half withdrawal in the Klassiker rout to Bayern Munich.

 

ROUND-UP

- La Nazione says Premier League leaders and Champions League holders Liverpool are interested in Fiorentina star Federico Chiesa. The 22-year-old has sparkled in Florence, leading to links with Serie A champions Juventus and Inter.

- Could Everton be set for a South American triple swoop? According to the Liverpool Echo, the Merseyside club are keen on signing Inter forward Gabriel Barbosa – on loan at Flamengo – and River Plate's Rafael Santos Borre. It comes as the Toffees have reportedly identified Flamengo head coach Jorge Jesus as a possible candidate to succeed Marco Silva following his Copa Libertadores and domestic success.

- Marca claims James Rodriguez has turned down a move to Arsenal. According to reports in England, the Gunners want James in January. However, the Madrid playmaker wants to stay in the Spanish capital.

- High-flying Inter are eager to sign Atalanta full-back Robin Gosens, reports Calciomercato.

Milan are targeting Juventus centre-back Merih Demiral, according to Gazzetta dello Sport. The Turkey international has struggled for game time following his arrival in Turin this season.

- As Flamengo struggle to secure a permanent deal for loan star Barbosa, Goal says the Copa Libertadores champions are in talks to sign Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa.

Manchester City have set their sights on Brescia and Italy sensation Sandro Tonali, says Fichajes. The 19-year-old is attracting interest from all over Europe.

Sunday's Premier League showdown between Leicester City and Everton pits two ambitious clubs with sharply contrasting recent fortunes against one another.

Leicester are the closest challengers to leaders Liverpool, sitting eight points shy of Jurgen Klopp's men and a point better off than champions Manchester City after 13 matches.

An ambitious managerial appointment in the form of Brendan Rodgers has paid dividends, with evergreen striker Jamie Vardy in sparkling form.

Marco Silva, a much-trumpeted arrival at Goodison Park before the start of last season, has work to do to turn around an increasingly dismal situation on Merseyside.

Last weekend's defeat to Norwich City means Everton have now lost 2-0 to all three of last season's promoted sides and they languish in 16th ahead of a tough run of fixtures.

VARDY PARTY GOES ON AND ON

Much of Leicester's charge to the upper-reaches of the table has been powered by the prolific Vardy.

The ex-England striker is the top scorer in the Premier League with 12 this season. He also has 12 in his past 12 home games and is closing in on a half-century at the King Power Stadium in the top flight (48 in 94 matches).

The alliance between Rodgers and Vardy has proved reinvigorating for the 32-year-old, who averages a goal every 98 minutes under the former Liverpool boss.

If Vardy's threat comes predominantly from open play, Leicester will also be keen to test Everton's set-piece vulnerability.

Despite facing the fifth fewest number of corners (55) and the joint-second fewest number of shots (14) from them, no side has conceded more goals from such set-piece situations this season than Everton's four.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: JAMES MADDISON v GYLFI SIGURDSSON

Maddison and Sigurdsson arrived at Leicester and Everton before the 2018-19 campaign to be the creative fulcrum of their sides.

Maddison has broken into the England set up and his form suggests he could yet be a star of Euro 2020.

In 47 starts out of 48 Premier League appearances for the Foxes, the former Norwich star boasts a goal involvement every 195.1 minutes thanks to 11 goals and nine assists.

He has created a phenomenal 128 chances and an 83.71 per cent completion rate from 1,977 passes is evidence of a man who cherishes possession.

A dribble success rate of 61.2 per cent shows another manner in which Maddison can hurt the opposition, while his 110 fouls won are more than double Sigurdsson's number (47).

The set-piece specialist edges Maddison in goal involvements thanks to 14 goals and 7 assists form 46 starts.

Sigurdsson has also created 100 chances, another impressive return that makes it tempting to wonder what he might achieve if his team-mates and manager can collectively pull themselves together.

FORM GUIDE

Leicester have won five consecutive Premier League matches, racking up an aggregate scoreline of 17-1.

The Foxes are aiming for six consecutive top-flight wins for the first time since 1963. They have only lost once in 12 games at home under Rodgers, winning nine.

October's 2-0 win over fellow strugglers West Ham snapped a run of four straight league losses for Everton.

Silva's side have taken four points from their four subsequent games, winning 2-1 over a Southampton side Leicester dispatched 9-0 last month.

HISTORY SAYS…

Everton have been defensively flimsy at times this season and they will have their work cut out to keep Vardy and co at bay.

The Toffees have only managed one clean sheet in their past 13 Premier League meetings with Leicester (W5 D4 L4), which came in a 2-0 win at the King Power Stadium in December 2016.

The corresponding fixture last season also finished in an Everton victory. Leicester have not lost consecutive home league games to the Merseyside club since December 1997.

None of the previous eight meetings between Leicester and Everton have been drawn, with each team winning four apiece.

Arsenal have set their sights on Nuno Espirito Santo.

Incumbent head coach Unai Emery is running out of time and the Gunners are reportedly plotting to replace him.

Succession planning could result in a raid on Premier League rivals Wolves.

 

TOP STORY – NUNO THE NUMERO UNO FOR ARSENAL

Impressed with his work in the Midlands, Arsenal chiefs have identified 45-year-old Nuno as their preferred replacement for the under-fire Emery.

The Daily Mail reports Raul Sanllehi, the club's head of football, has a "long-standing relationship" with Nuno's agent Jorge Mendes and claims the former Porto boss is now the leading contender for the job.

Nuno guided Wolves to promotion from the Championship two seasons ago and achieved a top-seven finish last term.

ROUND-UP

- LaLiga rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid are monitoring Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's situation as the striker stalls on an Arsenal contract extension, says The Daily Star.

- Jorge Jesus has emerged as a candidate to replace Marco Silva at Everton. The former Sporting CP coach guided Flamengo to Copa Libertadores glory over the weekend and his name has been put forward at Goodison Park, reports The Telegraph.

- Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich have held fresh talks with Leroy Sane's agent but are unlikely to lodge a transfer bid for the Manchester City winger until the end of the season, according to Goal.

- On-loan Roma defender Chris Smalling's impressive adjustment to Serie A has inspired Juventus to make enquiries to Manchester United, reports Italian broadcaster Radio Radio.

- Zlatan Ibrahimovic's latest transfer hint might not be what it seems. ESPN suggests the Swedish free agent is considering investing in Hammarby, rather than playing for the Allsvenskan side. On Tuesday, Ibrahimovic tweeted an image of a Hammarby shirt sporting his name on the back, sparking rampant speculation.

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