London (AFP) – Slaven Bilic and Ronald Koeman are two managers under serious pressure who will hope to ease a little of it on Wednesday with West Ham and Everton in League Cup last 16 action.
However, both former Croatian national manager Bilic and Dutch football great Koeman face monumental tasks away from home with West Ham taking on in-form Tottenham Hotspur and Everton travelling to champions Chelsea.
Both may have to play their first teams in a competition which usually gives Premier League managers the chance to rest weary first choice players.
Indeed the League Cup would be bottom of priorities for most Premier League managers in terms of silverware or for some simply to survive in the elite to keep on reaping in the millions that membership offers.
However, for Koeman and Bilic no such luxury can be afforded in that respect but the way the Everton manager sounded after the 5-2 home thrashing by Arsenal on Sunday it is going to take a mighty effort to rouse his troops for the Chelsea challenge.
“The team is underperforming, it is in a difficult situation mentally and struggling for confidence. That is what we need to change,” said Koeman.
“I told the players that I believe in the players, I believe in the commitment of the players.
“I still believe I can change the whole situation but everybody knows how it works in football.”
Chief among the accusations being levelled at Koeman — who impressed in his first campaign in charge last term after leaving Southampton — is despite spending £140million ($185mn) in the close season he did not fill the large vacuum left by record goalscorer Romelu Lukaku.
Their porousness at the back — where they are badly missing injured Ireland fullback Seamus Coleman — too will give Chelsea’s vibrant attack plenty of encouragement.
For Bilic facing a Tottenham side that put Liverpool to the sword 4-1 and firmly set aside the so-called Wembley jinx could not come at a worse time.
The charismatic Croatian is clearly feeling the weight of expectations as one poor season last term — which came close to costing him his job — has been followed by no sign of a return to the form that they showed in his first campaign.
“I’m the manager and I don’t want to run away from the fact that it’s my responsibility, and I take full responsibility,” he said.
Whilst they wait nervously for Wednesday the greater part of the matches take place on Tuesday with the only all Premier League affair Swansea hosting holders Manchester United.
United’s manager Jose Mourinho will be looking for his players to show more fight after blasting them following the 2-1 defeat at Huddersfield.
Midfielder Ander Herrera supported Mourinho in his summation and said that it was good they faced a match so soon after such a listless display.
“You want the opportunity to play again as quickly as possible and that’s what’s going to happen again against Swansea,” said Herrera.
United’s neighbours Manchester City host Championship leaders Wolves with the possibility that Sergio Aguero if given a run out could break Eric Brook’s all-time goalscoring record which has stood since 1939 — the Argentinian went level on 177 with a goal against Burnley on Saturday.
The other clashes are tricky for the Premier League sides as they face in-form tier two outfits with Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace away trip to Bristol City and 2016 champions Leicester home to Leeds being two potential upsets.
Tuesday (kick-offs 1845GMT unless stated)
Arsenal v Norwich, Bournemouth v Middlesbrough, Bristol City v Crystal Palace, Leicester v Leeds, Manchester City v Wolves (1900), Swansea v Manchester United
Chelsea v Everton (1845), Tottenham v West Ham (1900)
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