After the disappointment of last Saturday’s FA Cup exit, Roberto Martinez’ Everton return to Premier League action with a clear goal, to achieve some form of European football at Goodison Park next season. A sixth placed finish and the Europa League is the very least the Blues deserve for a relatively impressive first season for the Martinez reign, with a transformation in style and approach to the game.
The results since Christmas have been disappointing and the challenge remains turning strong performances against England’s richest clubs into wins and ultimate success. The Martinez approach is in contrast to the Moyes regime but the end results have so far been incredibly similar.
The next fortnight represents an excellent opportunity to boost morale with the visit of Cardiff followed by the leagues other Welsh side, Swansea City.
Meetings between the two sides have been infrequent through history with Cardiff and Everton rarely occupying the same division. The last Goodison Park league encounter between the Toffees and the Bluebirds ended in an incredible 8-3 score, Harry Catterick’s Blues emerging victorious. That match in 1962 featured a Roy Vernon hat-trick and further strikes from Bingham, Gabriel, Stevens, Temple and Young.
When the sides met in Wales earlier in the season the game ended in a disappointing stalemate. Neither side really threatened in a drab 0-0 draw.
Cardiff’s first season in the top flight since 1962 has been dogged with controversy throughout. Fans favourite Malky MacKay was sacked after a long running dispute with the clubs owners and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has failed to turn around the teams fortunes with the Bluebirds in the midst of a relegation dogfight.
Solskjaer’s men did pick up a crucial three points last week with an invaluable 3-1 win over fellow strugglers Fulham. That victory has lifted Cardiff to 18th and the final relegation position.
Phil Jagielka remains a significant doubt for the Blues with Martinez reluctant to rush his leader and England centre half back into action to soon. He is potentially joined on the sidelines by Steven Pienaar with the South African picking up a knock against Arsenal in last weeks FA Cup encounter.
Arouna Kone, Darron Gibson and Bryan Oviedo remain long term absentees and Lacina Traore is also out until the end of April.
Martinez May be tempted to line-up with Mirallas, Barkley and Deulofeu all in the starting line-up for the first time, although he may take a more conservative approach and utilise Aiden McGeedy or Leon Osman.
Possible Starting Team: Howard; Baines, Coleman, Stones, Distin; Barry, McCarthy, Barkley; Deulofeu, Mirallas; Lukaku.