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"We've had our eye on Kone & Pickford - I expect both to shine on Saturday!" says Everton fan Calvin

It's time for this week's Fan Focus, and once again we chatted to Calvin from fellow SBNation bloggers and top Everton fansite Royal Blue Mersey. As well as talking about the upcoming game, we discuss Everton’s latest youth prospects, Ronald Koeman's relationship with the supporters and whether or not they can break in to the Premier League top six this season.

Sunderland v Everton - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

RF: When we spoke at the beginning of the season, you said you'd never seen any Everton fan utter a bad word about Ronald Koeman. Since then, however, there have been some strange comments from the manager and some stuttering runs of form. How is the relationship between Koeman and the fans at the moment?

C: After the slide in form around week six weeks into the season, there were some grumblings from the fans, especially with his insistence on keeping the youth out of the team. However, ever since he started giving youngsters like Mason Holgate, Tom Davies and Dominic Calvert-Lewin opportunities, things have been better both on and off the pitch.

Knowing fans though, there's always something to complain about. The latest gripes are over his future, especially with the situations at Barcelona and Arsenal unfolding, and there seems to be some fear that Koeman might be ready to leave. He has shown in his last couple of moves that he is always willing to grab a better opportunity should it come knocking, so we'll see.

As far as his ability goes, right now there's no doubting his acumen. He has shown a few times this season with his squad selection, choice of formation and in-game management that he knows his players and their abilities very well now, and knows what is required to win games. Very refreshing to have a manager who can do that after Roberto Martinez' lame-duck style of coaching for the last couple of years.

RF: There's a fairly sizeable gap between you and the top six, with Everton currently seven points behind Manchester United. Due to that, does the aim need to be consolidating 7th and hope that brings European football? Or do you think you can edge United or Liverpool out?

C: The statistical mavens have gone and done the math and it's very unlikely we'll catch either of the two Reds. For now, all we can do is continue to develop the team in the mould Koeman wants, and see how things turn out. If nothing else, the team builds some good chemistry with the core 15-16 players and sets us up well for the next season. By some miracle, if we do make the Europa League, then that will be a bonus. It'll also present an additional squad depth challenge for the summer to prevent a catastrophic failure like Leicester City are now dealing with.

RF: Tom Davies has been impressing lately and looks like a very promising prospect. I don't want to build him up too much in case he ends up like Jack Rodwell, but is he worth the hype?

C: So far so good. It's still early days and he's played less than a dozen games for the senior squad, so we are trying desperately to check our expectations at the door. He's shown a lot of maturity in how he's handled the added attention since his breakthrough so there's a genuine chance that he will continue to stay even-keeled as he stays with the senior squad.

On the pitch, the kid is absolutely fearless. Davies is a throwback to the seventies with how he wears his socks low and strides about the pitch purposefully. His nickname of 'Ketwig Kaiser' is well-earned (Urban Dictionary will inform you in no uncertain terms what a 'ket wig' is). What's really interesting is how his emergence has actually sparked another local lad who seemed to have faded away, and goes by the name of Ross Barkley. Barkley has struggled to shoulder the expectations of a number 10, and Davies' hard running has actually given Ross more time and space to think, which has worked wonders for him.

RF: With that in mind, who are the key men for Everton, who Sunderland fans should be keeping a close eye on?

C: Everton's attack begins and just about ends with Lukaku. He had a slight calf ailment that caused him to miss out on the Toffees trip to Dubai, but with that being 11 days ago we expect he'll be fit to face you guys. If he does miss out though, then it'll be Enner Valencia starting in the striker spot.

Koeman will look to control the midfield on Saturday, so the key men will be Morgan Schneiderlin and Idrissa Gueye. They're both similar in playing styles and thrive in causing disruption in the middle of the park, allowing Davies and Barkley to create chances further upfield.

RF: And now time for The Jermain Defoe Question - who are you worried about in the Sunderland side?

C: Defoe's pace is a worry and his ability to get behind the backline is going to severely test Everton. David Moyes will have watched how Stoke City and Bournemouth gave Ashley Williams and Ramiro Funes Mori nightmares and will look to do the same with Defoe.

Lamine Kone and Jordan Pickford are two solid players that we've had our eye on for some time now and I will not be surprised to see them both shine on Saturday.

RF: How is Koeman likely to line up the team and approach the game?

C: This is a guessing game that we play on Royal Blue Mersey and rarely win. For the sake of it, I'll say we'll go 4-3-3, but Koeman is going to make me look foolish on Saturday I'm sure.

Robles; Baines, Funes Mori, Williams, Coleman; Schneiderlin, Davies, Gueye; Lookman, Lukaku, Barkley.

RF: Finally, let's have a prediction.

C: Oh man, I'm never good at these either. Under Koeman, Everton have been good at Goodison Park so I expect the fans will welcome the side after three weeks away from home and cheer them on to a 2-1 win - Jermain Defoe to snatch a very early goal, with Barkley and Lukaku scoring in the second half.


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