At the start of the season Everton wouldâ€™ve been one of the teams most people wouldâ€™ve mentioned if asked to name the main competitors for a top four spot, their form in the second half of last season was sensational. But they surprised everyone by starting slowly this time out and are playing catch up. With thirty games to go thereâ€™s obviously plenty of time left to do exactly that, but despite a couple of recent good wins they still have questions to answer, the main one being â€œWhoâ€™s going to get the goals?â€. Step forward Jermaine Beckford.
Nah, only kidding. Beckford may well have put in a better than decent shift against us in the cup for Leeds here in January but heâ€™s only once troubled the scorers since his move to Goodison and that was against Huddersfield. Evertonâ€™s strength as usual lies in a midfield containing Cahill, Arteta, Osman et al and thatâ€™s where they carry a threat rather than in the off form or injured Yakubu, Saha and Anichebe.
In last seasonâ€™s equivalent fixture we faced them in the middle of their good run and played well in the first half to go two goals up, but we were hanging on in the second half and it was only a Landon Donovan miss from a couple of yards that stopped the Toffees getting a point.
Everton will be facing a team knackered and chastened by Wednesdayâ€™s experience in the San Siro. All the players were apparently in training on Thursday despite a late return back from Italy so hopefully that means no new knocks. The early kick off means that those who put in a shift wonâ€™t have got enough rest but as well as being able to dip into a squad currently being talked up as one of the best around, Harry will also have a returning Van der Vaart and a relatively fresh Modric and Gomes to turn to. Pav will expect a run out and given the 4-4-2 at home & 4-5-1 away tactics maybe Keane as well. The way heâ€™s going at the moment, each day closer to January 1st cuts another 24 hours from Robbie’s imminent shelf life at Spurs.
Redknappâ€™s philosophy of shoring up the defence by boosting the attack will again be put under pressure unless King has made a remarkable recovery or Kaboul is fit again. The back four should bear a strong resemblance to that which started on Wednesday. If theyâ€™re wise Everton will switch to blue and black stripes and try and invoke a bit of trauma, as it is they might well be wearing a florid pink. Still shocking but not nightmare inducing.
The referee will be Mike Jones, a recent visitor to WHL in that he took charge of the Wolves game.
Shaking off Wednesday and getting three points out of this game would be an impressive achievement but itâ€™s something we are capable of. Everton are a good side but so are we. I suspect not many previews of this game will get this far without a mention of Gareth Bale. The man will receive a rousing reception from everyone lucky enough to have a ticket for Saturday. Catch him while you can, heâ€™s a star.
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