It feels like along wait since the Blues were last in action, but Everton travel to West Brom buoyed by the weekends results, with only Tottenham winning out of the other main challenges for fourth spot. With Liverpool slipping up at home and Manchester United receiving a lesson from Mourinho’s Chelsea, Everton know three points on Monday night will propel the Blues back into fourth and with it, possession of the last Champions League spot.
Monday’s televised match presents Everton will a further opportunity to show the watching nation just how much they have improved under Roberto Martinez. The Blues are no longer dull and pragmatic, instead playing with an attacking fluency that has supporters on the edge of their seats. It does promise to be a difficult match, especially as West Brom have Pepe Mel in charge of the team for the first time, but if Everton wish to be considered as serious challenges, then they must win away fixtures against sides towards the foot of the table.
When the sides met earlier in the season, the Blues were still coming to terms with the way Martinez wanted his team to play and the 0-0 draw was a true reflection of the game. Although Everton dominated the play, they were too slow and pedestrian and did little to really threaten the West Brom goal until late in the match, when the woodwork came to the rescue of the Midlanders.
At the Hawthorns, the Blues record is mixed. Last season the Baggies nullified Everton far to easily and eventually ran out 2-0 winners, with goals from Shane Long and Gareth McAuley.
Everton nemesis, Shane Long departed West Brom last week, to join Nikica Jelavic at Hull, leaving Albion a little short in attack. Ex Blue, Victor Anichebe is out injured as is fellow summer recruit, Stephane Sessegnon, leaving Nicolas Anelka and Saido Berahino as the only fit forward players.To make matters worse for new manager Pepe Mel, French striker Anelka is set to be charged with misconduct by the FA, placing the club under tremendous pressure not to play him in tonight’s fixture.
It has been a troubled season for the Baggies, with manager Steve Clark receiving the sack after a disappointing run of results left the club in the midst of a relegation battle. Despite possessing a relatively strong squad, a number of players have failed to perform leaving the club only three points off the bottom of the table. It is the clubs away form that has left them struggling at the wrong end, with some the home results impressive, especially the 1-1 draw with Manchester City and a 1-0 win over Newcastle in their last match at the Hawthorns.
After a week training in Tenerife, Roberto Martinez is hoping that the warm weather will have aided the recovery of several players. Ross Barkley is still a week or two away from a return, with Spanish winger Gerard Deulofeu also out. On a more positive note, Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman have quickly recovered from knocks picked up against Norwich and Sylvain Distin is fit to return after missing the last 3 matches.
Aiden McGeady is likely to make his debut after completing his move from Spartak Moscow, but with the Irish international not playing for almost seven weeks, he is expected to start from the substitutes bench. Martinez is hopeful of completing the signing of Lacina Traore in the next 24 hours, but whatever happens he will be ineligible for today’s match.
The big decision facing Martinez, is how does he cover the absence of Barkley. He has a number of options, but may decide to keep faith with Leon Osman. Alternatively he may look to inject some additional pace into the Blues attack and move Kevin Mirallas inside with Bryan Oviedo playing more advanced on the left-wing and Pienaar moving across to the right.
Possible Starting Team: Howard; Baines, Coleman, Jagielka, Stones; Barry, McCarthy, Mirallas; Pienaar, Oviedo; Lukaku.
If Everton win it will be their 300th win since the inception of the Premier League in 1992.
Everton have lost just one of their last 10 league matches, winning 6 and drawing 3.
West Brom have won only 2 of their last 10 league matches, losing 6 and drawing 2.
Romelu Lukaku is Everton’s top scorer with 9 league goals, second on the list is Seamus Coleman who has scored 5 times in the league.
Saido Berahino is West Brom’s top scorer with 4 league goals, second on the list is Shane Long who has scored 3 times in the league, but no longer plays for the club.
In the reverse fixture the sides drew 0-0 at Goodison Park.
Since the inception of the Premier League in 1992 the teams have met 7 times at the Hawthorns. Everton have won 3 and lost 4, with none of the games ending level.
In last season’s corresponding fixture at the Hawthorns West Brom were victorious, with Shane Long and Gareth McAuley scoring in a 2-0 win.
We trawled the net for footage of a 6-2 Everton win from 1967-68, but unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be any footage from that fixture. Alan Ball was the star of the show that day bagging four, two of which were from the penalty spot. Johnny Morrissey and Joe Royle were also on target for the Toffees.
We have therefore settled for a 1-1 draw in the 1989 FA Cup, when a Kevin Sheedy goal from the penalty spot earned the Blues a replay, which they went onto win 1-0 at Goodison Park.