Everton Under-23s boss David Unsworth has challenged his players to build on their impressive opening-day display at Chelsea by securing victory against a “strong and powerful” Leicester City at Goodison Park on Monday night.
The young Blues kicked off their Premier League 2 campaign with a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge eight days ago, leaving the boss to praise his players’ quality, tactical shape and fitness.
While Unsworth was left frustrated the Toffees couldn’t convert their commanding performance into a win, he believes their display offered a glimpse of what his young players are capable of this season.
The young Blues will face a Leicester side that went close to claiming the Premier League 2 title last season – they finished just three points behind champions Arsenal – and launched their 2018-19 season on a winning note by beating Swansea City 1-0.
Unsworth expects a stern test at Goodison but is confident his side can get their first victory on the board.
“Knowing [Leicester Under-23s boss] Steve Beaglehole the way I do, he’ll be disappointed they didn’t win the league last season,” Unsworth told evertonfc.com.
“They are very strong, very powerful, they play a lot of senior Under-23 players and they’ve found a formula that has brought them a lot of success.
“It will be a tough game, we’ve got to be on it but we’re confident we can get a result.
“They are very dangerous at set-pieces and they can play a bit as well. But we’re not bad ourselves. And if we perform like we did against Chelsea, particularly the second half, we will have a good chance. It was a great team performance.”
Unsworth saw a number of encouraging signs in last week’s game, with his side’s defensive solidity and the all-round contributions of midfield duo Joe Williams and Harry Charsley particularly impressing.
Charsley’s 20-yard drive had put the Toffees ahead on the hour-mark before Charly Musonda equalised from the penalty spot 10 minutes later.
“Matty Pennington and Tyias Browning at the back were rock solid,” Unsworth explained.
“I thought Joe Williams was the best player on the pitch - he ran the game - closely followed by Harry Charsley. Those two know each other very well having played together a lot over the years and they have a good relationship. Nathan Broadhead, too, continued his fine form from pre-season.
“We grew stronger in the game, we had great fitness throughout, which really pleased me in our first competitive match.
“It was a great tactical team performance. We worked on a lot of things in pre-season, we looked to set up in a certain way and the players took that on board magnificently, so from a coaching point of view, that’s always great.
“I was little bit disappointed we didn’t get the win, we said that to the players at the time, but away from home against Chelsea it was a decent start.”
Unsworth revealed his players relished the chance to showcase their quality at the London club's home ground - an experience which heightened excitement levels ahead of a welcome opportunity to perform under the Goodison Park lights.
“It’s the first time we’ve played at Stamford Bridge since I've been Under-23 manager,” said Unsworth. “It is a nice opportunity for our young players to play at these grounds.
“But it’s always a privilege to play at Goodison, whether you’re an Under-23 player or a first-team player. It’s great to be back there and it's something we love. We are all looking forward to the game.”