Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti has justified his decision to start with Anthony Gordon in Sunday’s Merseyside derby against Liverpool.
The 19-year-old was a surprise name on the Toffees’ teamsheet for the encounter at Goodison Park, with the locally-born teenager have never previously started a Premier League match before, let alone one of such importance.
Experienced manager Ancelotti, however, believed he had seen enough from the youngster to justify his selection as his side ended an unscheduled three-month break due to coronavirus with a grudge fixture against Jurgen Klopp’s men.
"Anthony Gordon trained well, showed confidence and this is a good opportunity for him. He deserves to play,” Ancelotti told Sky Sports.
The attacking midfielder has featured previously for Everton in the Premier League, making his debut against West Ham away from home as a half-time substitute for Bernard in a 1-1 draw in London, while he also featured as a late replacement in the 4-0 loss to Chelsea immediately before the pandemic struck, putting the brakes on the season.
He has, however, been on the fringes of the Toffees’ first team for a long period, having made his debut off the bench in a Europa League encounter against Apollon Limassol in December 2017.
He was commonly found in Everton’s Premier League 2 squad this season, turning out with some success at that standard. He netted twice against Arsenal’s Under-23 side then followed that up with another double and an assist against Southampton’s youths, while he ended the season with six goals and two assists in nine outings at that level.
In addition, he has turned out for England at both Under-18 and Under-19 level.
Everton, who are presently 13th in the Premier League, were seeking to end a dire record against their Stanley Park rivals, having not overcome Liverpool in any competition since October 2010, when goals from Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta guided them to a 2-0 victory over Roy Hodgson’s struggling side at Goodison Park.
Subsequently, they have played 21 times, suffering 11 defeats in that period while registering 10 draws. Their sorest defeats were a couple of 4-0 losses to their rivals.