The Toffees at home on Sunday afternoon; it’s the late kick-off once again.
Both teams were in Europa League action on Thursday night, Everton won in Salzburg whilst we saw off Partizan with a game of two halves performance, stagger then swagger. Our game is likely to have bigger consequences than just confirming our place in the next round of the competition of course.
Everton have been the Premier League’s equivalent of par golf for a number of years now. Finish above them and in general you’ve probably had a good season, below and there’ll be grumbling in the ranks. Last year was a prime example; their 5th place massively eclipsed our 6th despite it being only one position. This year, after a slow start, they’ve picked up a bit of form and sit 9th on the same points as us but 4 ahead on goal difference. Should we snaffle three points we’ll go above them and once again, as is the case when you beat par, the world will seem a brighter place.
The threats from the away team are the obvious ones, Lukaku, Baines, Coleman and Mirallas. Baines didn’t play last weekend due to a hamstring problem, it’s only a minor strain though and those seating near the front of the east and west stands should expect to see sideboards. McCarthy is also hamstrung though and his may be a tad more serious as he was taken off in Wolfsburg. They are also ‘waiting on’, as the saying goes, Naismith, Pienaar, Barry and Oviedo so it’s a busy time for the Toffee physio.
Everton’s strengths are our weaknesses. They have speed and width and know how to use it. Partly due to the system we play, we have little of either of these. The ‘reverse winger’ deployment, ie a lefty on the right and a righty on the left, beloved of Pochettino drives me nuts personally, especially when the full backs aren’t good enough to take advantage of the space left behind when the ‘wingers’ cut in. Chiriches did well in this respect in the second half against the Tigers and will probably start in place of the naughty Naughton. Fazio and Vertonghen in the middle (unless Kaboul is back) and Davies (assuming Rose is out) on the left will probably make up the rest of the back four. The rest of it is finger in the air stuff to me. Assuming that Chadli and Adebayor are still injured the remainder of the side may consist of Mason (though Livermore did scythe through him horribly last Sunday), Eriksen, Kane, Soldado, Lamela and one other. Dembele probably.
Given their current form playing Fazio/Kaboul and Chiriches in the same side is verging on the suicidal but fitness and availability means we have little option.
We’re set for a tough afternoon I’m sure, our home form says it all. Par golf though – keep it simple, do the basics well, take no risks and hole out efficiently.
Michael Oliver is down to referee. He was poor in the NLD; hope he’s got his act together by now. COYS.
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