Kevin Mirallas, the source of the ‘lack’ in Everton’s attack

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For all the rave reviews the Everton attack received over the first eight weeks of the season the well has suddenly gone dry, having went goal-less in the last two matches.

It’s a predicament that has the blue side of Liverpool justifiably nervous ahead of the November 23rd derby.

The holding pair of Gareth Barry and James McCarthy is rock-solid defensively but the rest of the attack has hardly posed a threat of late.

The Leighton Baines-Steven Pienaar linkup that was so devastating last season has gone silent.

Baines was impressive early on, most notably on his two free-kicks against West Ham, but the danger he presented was almost always a one-man effort. Lately his exploits have tailed off, perhaps due to his growing defensive responsibilities although continuing to hear the rumors of Manchester United’s interest can’t help the situation.

While Baines will inevitably kick-on the bigger issue is with Pienaar, whose timidity and indecisiveness is crushing their partnership. The South African is a player who tends to wax and wane throughout the season but if Everton are to press on and compete with top clubs he needs to begin asserting himself, and fast.

The skill and lateral movement that Leon Osman used to dominate opponents last year and earn himself a call-up to the England squad has faded yet still, Roberto Martinez prefers him over Ross Barkley. The decision is one that bewilders, especially considering the dominance and big-play ability that Barkley displayed as a starter early on in the season. Martinez is likely trying to ensure Barkley avoids burning out but the time off seems to hurt the Englishman rather than help. He may be 19-years-old but he is so physically mature and influential that Everton need him starting every league match.

Without a doubt the biggest punch in the Toffee attack is Romelu Lukaku, but after five goals in his first five games he’s put up two blanks. It’s not a major worry for the Belgian as much as it for the team, who need to work harder at becoming less dependent on Lukaku’s scoring prowess. If the club is going to compete for the Champions League – the goal set out by Martinez in the summer – they must find different, more creative ways of putting the ball into the back of the net and not rely so heavily on the Chelsea loanee.

Without a doubt the biggest offensive blight of the season has been Kevin Mirallas, who looks a shadow of his former self. Along with Marouane Fellaini, Mirallas was the Toffees biggest offensive weapon last year, earning admirers from Old Trafford to the Emirates. Everton did well to hold onto the silky-skilled attacker this summer, keen on maintaining one of the biggest hopes in Belgium’s golden generation.

Mirallas’ darting runs and ferocious appetite earned him widespread admiration among Evertonians last year but eleven weeks into the current season and that love is starting to wane. He frequently cuts a frustrated figure, with both himself and others, and too often drops his head after making mistakes. His devastating pace and bottomless stamina also seems to be on short order, not to mention his inability to unlock defenses with trickery and link-up play.

It’s possible that Mirallas is suffering from the sophomore slump where recent transplants to the Premier League get ‘figured out’ by their opponents. But I think there’s something deeper at work here. Mirallas is no flash in the pan or one-trick pony. He has the talent to be a dominant force in England and the prospect of what he and Lukaku could pull off remains mouthwatering.

For a player who led the Greek League in scoring with 20 goals in 2011-12, the former Olympiacos man’s drop in form is a massive worry on Merseyside. Perhaps it’s time to hand him some time off to straighten his head. Steven Naismith is by no means the answer, but the Scot’s infectious energy can fill the gap while Mirallas (re)convinces himself that he can dominate at the highest level.

EFL Cup: Mourinho beats Guardiola; Chelsea fall to West Ham

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 26: Jose Mourinho, Manager of Manchester United (L) and Josep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City (R) embrace prior to kick off during the EFL Cup fourth round match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on October 26, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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The EFL Cup quarterfinal field is set following the completion of three more fourth-round clashes on Wednesday. Manchester United, West Ham United and Southampton join the likes of Arsenal and Liveprool in the final eight.

[ MORE: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Manchester United 1-0 Manchester City

Not all Manchester derbies are created equally. If you watched all 90 minutes of Wednesday’s clash at Old Trafford, that’s undoubtedly your first takeaway.

Clear-cut scoring chances were very few and very far between, particularly in the first half. United had the better of the opening 45 minutes — by the narrowest of margins — but failed to hit paydirt. Attrition Persistence paid off not long into the second half, though, as Juan Mata finished a scrappy bit of build-up from 12 yards out. Zlatan Ibrahimovic tallied the assist on the goal, as Ander Herrera should also so for clearing out the penalty area with a strong shoulder into the back of Fernando.

City failed to register a single shot on target over the course of 90 minutes, as Pep Guardiola‘s side slumps to six games without a victory (all competitions), alternating draws and losses through. As for Guadriola’s personal duel with Jose Mourinho, the rivals each have one victory against the other since arriving in Manchester, with Guardiola taking the first in Premier League play.

[ MORE: Tuesday’s EFL Cup roundup — Liverpool, Arsenal move on ]

West Ham United 2-1 Chelsea

Cheikhou Kouyate and Edimilson Fernandes fired Slaven Bilic‘s West Ham past Antonio Conte‘s Chelsea at the London Stadium, as both managers opted for a mix between first-team and reserve players. It was 2-0 until the final minute of regular time, when Gary Cahill pulled one back for Chelsea, but that’s as close as they would get.

The game was, once again, marred by unsavory scenes in the stands inside West Ham’s new ground, as Blues fans in the away end clashed with Hammers supproters seated closest to them.

Southampton 1-0 Sunderland

Sofiane Boufal made his first start for Southampton since becoming the club’s new record signing this summer, and marked his full debut with a stunning goal, the only one of the game, as Saints topped Sunderland at the St. Mary’s Stadium.

Drogba likely out for Impact playoff clash with D.C. United

Montreal Impact forward Didier Drogba heads the ball in front of D.C. United midfielder Marcelo Sarvas during the second half of an MLS soccer match Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Superstar forward Didier Drogba‘s absence from the Montreal Impact roster is unlikely to end in Thursday’s Eastern Conference knockout-round playoff match against host D.C. United.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Despite scoring 10 goals in 22 appearances, Drogba hasn’t played since the end of September – partly due to a feud over playing time with manager Mauro Biello and more recently because of a back ailment.

The 38-year-old Ivory Coast international and former Chelsea striker sat out most of training again on Tuesday. Multiple media outlets on Wednesday reported that he did not make the trip to Washington.

[ MORE: Power rankings — Going to the playoffs edition ]

“I don’t think those chances will be good,” Biello said Tuesday, according to MLSSoccer.com. “He hasn’t trained, he still feels a discomfort, so the chances are very minimal.”

Drogba is out of contract at the end of the season, and fifth-seeded Montreal is actually 6-3-3 this season when he doesn’t play.

In the latter third of the campaign, Biello appeared to be more comfortable starting mid-season loan signing Matteo Mancosu at forward and bringing Drogba off the bench. The 31-year-old Italian has three goals and four assists in 15 appearances (seven starts).

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

“(Drogba’s) a different player than Mancosu, but I don’t think much is going to change if they swap one for the other,” D.C. United coach Ben Olsen said, according to MLSSoccer.com. “So the way we go about the game isn’t going to change.”

By contrast, fourth-seeded D.C. United have very few questions surrounding their personnel for a group that had won four straight before sitting most of its regulars in a 4-2 loss at Orlando City SC on Sunday.

[ MORE: The case for (and against) every team in the East | The West ]

Midfielder Marcelo Sarvas (knee) and outside back Sean Franklin (calf) made their first appearances since September on Sunday, but seem unlikely to supplant anyone in Olsen’s starting lineup.

“We like our group,” Olsen told reporters Tuesday. “But those two players are very influential to the team. These are good choices to have, and I’m certainly not going to tell you who I’m starting.”

LIVE – EFL Cup: Manchester Derby, West Ham-Chelsea, Saints-Sunderland

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 12:  Wayne Rooney of Manchester United evades Fernandinho of Manchester City during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on April 12, 2015 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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There are still three more teams yet to join the quintet who clinched quarterfinal berths in the EFL Cup on Tuesday.

We’ve got three all-PL ties to decide their fates.

[ LIVE: Follow EFL Cup scores ]

Follow the action above, as we learn who takes the remaining spots alongside Newcastle United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Leeds United, and Hull City.

Holders Man City are off to Old Trafford for a derby match-up in the Round of 16, while it’s an all-London match at the Olympic Stadium between West Ham and Chelsea.

Finally, Sunderland hopes to break out of its season-long slump to join Northeast rivals Newcastle in the quarters. The Black Cats will need to win at Southampton to move on.

EFL Cup fourth round, Wednesday games

West Ham United vs. Chelsea — 2:45 p.m. ET
Southampton vs. Sunderland — 2:45 p.m. ET
Manchester United vs. Manchester City — 3 p.m. ET

MLS Cup Playoffs Thurs. preview: Seattle, DC riding hot streaks

SEATTLE, WA - MARCH 06:  Osvaldo Alonso #6 of the Seattle Sounders FC dribbles against Roger Espinoza #27 of Sporting Kansas City at CenturyLink Field on March 6, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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The 4-5 match-ups in each conference are set for Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs, with two of the league’s hottest teams set to hit the pitch.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

Both Seattle and DC are at home for their “play-in” matches, and face road teams with plenty of veteran experience and firepower in what should be a pair of beauts on each side of our country.

DC United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET

The Black-and-Red have hit their stride under coach Ben Olsen, and seem on board the plan.

Montreal, however, has not seen tranquility in Quebec. Ignacio Piatti has been fantastic, but the headlines have revolved around Didier Drogba‘s unhappiness at not starting under Mauro Biello.

Drogba is not expected to play, while DC was able to rest the majority of its starters on Decision Day. The combination of those two facts bodes well for the hosts.

[ MORE: Nyarko says DC can aim high in MLS Playoffs ]

Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10:30 p.m. ET

Nicolas Lodeiro and Jordan Morris have helped Seattle make up for the absence of transferred Obafemi Martins and injured Clint Dempsey.

The duo has been simply fantastic in “rave green”, and Sporting KC is going to have a whale of a time slowing Seattle. Consider the ability and season of under-the-radar MVP candidate Osvaldo Alonso in the center of the park, and all bets are off.

Of course, the thing about KC is there’s little question it has the mettle to not just win on the road, but win a tournament. Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, Dom Dwyer, Brad Davis, Benny Feilhaber… who in that locker room is going to shrink under the bright lights of the playoffs?