Wednesday Kickoff: Donovan faces next big challenge

Wednesday Kickoff: Donovan faces next big challenge

European Soccer

Wednesday Kickoff: Donovan faces next big challenge

Landon Donovan 5 (ISIphotos.com)

In the unrelenting world of the English Premier League it is rare when teams have much time to dwell on tough losses before another rough challenge awaits. In the case of Landon Donovan, Tim Howard and Everton, the sting of Saturday's loss to Liverpool is still fresh as they prepare to battle first-place Chelsea.

The Toffees will be without Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar for today's crucial test, but they will have Donovan, who should take on a bigger role in the Everton attack. He could face a World Cup preview challenge on the right flank against Chelsea left back and England national team defender Ashley Cole, assuming David Moyes doesn't choose to start Donovan on the left flank to try and test Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic.

If we are treated to a Donovan-Cole clash, it could be a World Cup preview, but chances are it won't be.

Donovan is much more likely to be playing on the left flank for the United States come June, and I would be more inclined to see him make a move to forward before he goes to the right wing, where Stuart Holden and Clint Dempsey could start. Left flank would make the most sense against England for Donovan because he would be matched up against the likes of Wes Brown or Glen Johnson, who aren't as strong defensively as Cole.

Today's clash comes just four days after Everton's thoroughly disappointing loss to Liverpool, a match that saw Donovan play well in the first half but disappear in the second half. Donovan showed a willingness to go at defenders and get involved in the attack in the first 45 minutes of the Merseyside Derby, but as Everton's attack began to fade collectively, Donovan struggled to find his own way to impact the proceedings. He finished the match as arguably the most effective of Everton's attacking players, but that wasn't exactly a major accomplishment on Saturday.

Today won't be any easier without Fellaini and Pienaar in the lineup for Everton, but it should be noted that Chelsea has won just one of of its past five on the road (1-3-1). It will be very interesting to see how much more of a role Donovan will have in the attack today considering Pienaar is out and considering the midfield could struggle for possession without Fellaini as an anchor in central midfield. His absence in the second half against Liverpool was a glaring one, especially given Mikel Arteta's relative ineffectiveness as a replacement.

Unfortunately for American fans, the Everton-Chelsea match isn't on American TV, so we will all be hunting for internet feeds come 3pm today. It will be worth the hunt to see how Donovan handles his next tough EPL challenge, and to see him face John Terry and Ashley Cole some four months before they meet with even more on the line.

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