Everton are back in action for the first time since 20 March, when they were embarrassed by Crystal Palace in the quarter final of the FA Cup. Despite dominating for the opening twenty to twenty-five minutes, the Blues did not make it count and capitulated, losing 4-0.
The main priority for the Toffees now is preserving their Premier League status. They have never been relegated from the Premier League and have not been relegated from England’s top division since 1950-51. It is the most precarious situation Everton have been in for seventy-two years.
They were helped on Saturday as both Burnley and Watford lost, whilst Leeds drew. The Merseyside outfit have up to four games in hand on the teams around them, and need to start making them count sooner rather than later.
London calls this Sunday with a visit to West Ham United, managed by former Blues manager David Moyes. The Scot was in charge for eleven seasons and reached the final of the FA Cup in 2009 and achieved a top four finish in the 2004/05 season. He now manages West Ham, his second spell, and has them eighth in the table, three points behind Tottenham in fifth. The Hammers are also in the last eight of the Europa League and face Lyon in the quarter finals.
Their last league game was a 3-1 defeat to Tottenham, meaning they have only won twice from their last seven games. In that time, they were also knocked out of the FA Cup by Southampton, but as mentioned are in the quarter finals of the Europa League.
The sides met at Goodison Park in October, with Angelo Ogbonna scoring the only goal in a 0-1 win. The Hammers are looking for their first league double over the Blues in fifty years.
In his press conference, David Moyes confirmed that Vladimir Coufal and Jarrod Bowen will return to action in the coming weeks, though did not say whether they would be involved tomorrow. He also confirmed that Manuel Lanzini, who was involved in a car crash on Thursday, did not pick up any injuries and is available for selection. The only long-term absentee is Angelo Ogbonna who is out with a knee injury.
As for Everton, Frank Lampard said in his press conference that both Fabian Delph and Yerry Mina will be back in the next couple of weeks. Mina has been a massive miss for the Blues and his importance to the defence is clear. When Mina is in the backline, Everton concede an average of 1.11 goals a game, compared to almost 1.7 when he is not in the team. Andros Townsend is also out for the foreseeable future as he suffered a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury during the defeat to Crystal Palace.
Allan is also still suspended following his red card against Newcastle, serving the second of a three-game ban.
One to watch – West Ham United
Saïd Benrahma has been one of the standout performers for West Ham this season. The winger has twelve goal involvements in twenty-six games this season (six goals, six assists) and has three goal involvements in his last three games.
The Algerian is one of the most talented and skilful wingers in the league and this is represented in his strengths. His through balls, key passes, dribbling and hold-up play are all strengths of his, and he loves to cut inside onto his favoured right foot.
His defensive contribution is something that is a big weakness and is something that Everton could look to exploit during the fixture if he is playing.
One to watch – Everton
Demarai Gray is one of a few Blues players that can likely escape scrutiny and criticism for his performances this season. at £1.7 million, he looks to be the shrewdest signing that Everton have made in recent seasons.
The winger has seven goal involvements this season but has not registered any since the victory over Brentford in the FA Cup in February. This is not to say that he has not been providing opportunities, he is one of Everton’s most creative players and a willing runner. It is his running and dribbling that endeared himself to Evertonians earlier on in the season and something that is seen as a strength. His crossing and hold-up play are also seen as strengths, something that Everton need to make more use of in the closing stages of the season.
Sunday’s fixture is of critical importance for Frank Lampard and Everton, as results have gone their way this weekend. A win would move them six points clear of Watford in eighteenth, with two games in hand.
West Ham on the other hand are competing at the business end of the Premier League. A win for David Moyes and his side would send them up to fifth in the table, but with a Europa League quarter final on Thursday, it remains to be seen how strong a side that the Hammers will feel.
The Toffees are looking for their first away win in the league since August against a West Ham side who have looked formidable at home in recent weeks. Based on Everton’s abysmal away form and capitulations away from Goodison, it is hard to see how they will get anything out of the game.
Though based on Brentford’s win at Chelsea, surprises can happen. Let’s hope
Everton can spring one tomorrow.