Boss Welcomes Blues' Centre-Back Battle

Sam Allardyce has welcomed the “nice headache” of having centre-back competition in his squad as Eliaquim Mangala bids to make his home debut against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

The busy run of fixtures during the Christmas and new year period, combined with injuries to the likes of Phil Jagielka and Michael Keane, has seen Allardyce mix up his pairings in central defence in his search for clean sheets, with Ashley Williams and Mason Holgate also used.

Mangala has now been added to that pool of talent after joining the Blues on loan for the rest of the season from Manchester City. The France international made his debut in last weekend’s loss at Arsenal and arrives at Goodison with vast experience of playing at the top end of European football, having spent three years at Porto and last season on loan with Valencia.

Ramiro Funes Mori, who like Mangala is a left-footed centre-back, could soon be in the fold, too, after playing 45 minutes for the Under-23s on Monday in his first match action since suffering a knee injury last March.

While Allardyce believes the Argentina international needs more time before making his first-team return, he believes the competition for places can boost the Blues at the back.

“I have had a big selection pool in that position for a while,” the Toffees manager told “Funes is still a way off in terms of the time he has had off injured. Two or three games in the Under-23s (are needed).

“We are short of left-footed players – both of those (Funes and Mangala) are left-footed, so we have to get a better balance and, hopefully, that will be the place.

“I always consider competition for places a nice headache. It is much better to have too many good players capable of playing that position than it is not having enough.

“Left-back has been a spot I have tried to improve on but wasn’t able to do in that window. But we have a left-footed player in Mangala who can balance the team off down that side. And Leighton Baines is not far off coming back.”

Ahead of Saturday’s visit of Palace to Goodison, Allardyce reiterated the need for Everton to call on their positive home form under his guidance, which has brought three wins and two draws from his six matches.

That included an impressive 2-1 victory against in-form Leicester last time out at the Grand Old Lady courtesy of Theo Walcott’s double.

Allardyce wants his team to draw on that display to banish last week’s loss at Arsenal, and take confidence from the Blues being a force on home soil.

“We can point to the home results since I have been here,” he added. “They have been consistent. Most people would agree the home record is the mainstay in why we are in the top half of the table at the moment and we must continue that.

“Since I have been here, it is three wins, two draws and only one defeat in six home games - in a very difficult period over Christmas and new year with all the changes and injuries.

“We can focus on that and get rid of the negativity from what happened at Arsenal and say, ‘At home, we are a force, make sure you stay positive and give the top performance you can – and perform as well as you did against Leicester’.

“With clinical finishing like what Theo showed on that day, it will hopefully bring us three points.” 

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