The FIFA virus has hit Everton hard, wreaking havoc on their expected lineup ahead of this weekend’s big rivalry game against Liverpool. If there’s one man who can’t stand this particular illness, and who has no compunction making his frustration perfectly clear to those he considers at fault, it’s Toffee manager Ronald Koeman.
Neither Everton nor Liverpool will be at full strength for tomorrow’s Merseyside derby due to injuries—the Reds will be without midfielder Adam Lallana, captain Jordan Henderson, and forward Daniel Sturridge (shocker!), while the Toffees will have somehow have to manage without defenders Seamus Coleman and Ramiro Funes Mori, midfielder James McCarthy, and, as Koeman announced today, midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin.
In Liverpool’s case, only Lallana’s injury was sustained on national team duty during last week’s international break, while three of Everton’s omitted players—Coleman, Funes Mori, and McCarthy—were hurt playing for their respective motherlands. Coupled with the fact that—until Koeman announced otherwise today—Schneiderlin, who limped off the pitch during Everton’s 4-0 win over Hull a few weeks ago, was expected to be in the starting XI, that’s four key players abruptly missing from Everton’s lineup.
The bodies started piling up last week when Coleman’s leg was snapped in half after a violent tackle in Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against Wales. (You really don’t, but in case you trick yourself into believing you do want to see a slow-mo shot of the break, here it is.) Then this week, Funes Mori was forced off in the first half of Argentina’s 2-0 loss to Bolivia, with what has reportedly been diagnosed as season-ending torn meniscus.
McCarthy was slated to play in Ireland’s match against Wales last week, too, despite a hamstring injury, but Ireland manager Martin O’Neill scratched him at the last minute when he pulled up gimpy in warmups. Koeman, who has previously feuded with O’Neill over McCarthy’s appearances for Ireland, slammed the Ireland manager again today, telling reporters in the pre-match press conference that O’Neill didn’t protect McCarthy.
Reading from a prepared statement, the Everton boss burned O’Neill in measured but direct language. From the Irish Times:
“James had an injury when he reported for Ireland duty last week. Everton’s medical team advised serious caution, not only due to the current injury but due to previous injuries too.
“The assessment by the Ireland medical team was that it would be high risk for James to play against Wales.
“But of course James, as a strong [PERSON] decided to play for his country, so when asked if he was fit to play he said he felt he was, and he was selected to start the game by the Ireland manager who, in my opinion - in this instance - was not protecting the player.”
He also said, according to the Liverpool Echo, this is “not the first time.”
Indeed, this particular beef goes back a ways. Last year, Koeman alleged McCarthy was “massively overloaded” by his national team duties, to which O’Neill said Koeman was “bleating” about the situation, prompting Koeman to try and get McCarthy not to join his country’s squad for the next qualifier.
Despite the ongoing tug-of-war over McCarthy, Koeman attempted to put a positive spin on the situation ahead of Saturday’s derby, saying, “In one week we lost three players, players who [are] normally in the starting line-up. We still have a strong team tomorrow. It’s a nice challenge.”
Tomorrow’s match is not going to be pretty.