Relegation-battlers Hull City will look to cause an upset and stop Everton from climbing into the Premier League’s top-six when the two sides meet at Goodison Park on Saturday afternoon.
Hull’s victory over Swansea last weekend leaves them only a point adrift of Crystal Palace and safety, and a surprise result over Ronald Koeman’s side could lift them as high as 16th in the table.
The hosts could make progress of their own with a win on Saturday, as three points would put the Toffees ahead of Champions League-chasing Manchester United before they play lowly Middlesbrough on Sunday.
See below for The Boot Room’s extensive preview of a crucial clash at both ends of the table…
Everton’s nine-match unbeaten run came to an end at the hands of high-flying Tottenham a fortnight ago in an enthralling match at White Hart Lane, but the Toffees bounced back well to ease to victory over Premier League surprise package West Brom last weekend, running out 3-0 winners.
With games against Liverpool and Manchester United directly following Hull City’s visit, Ronald Koeman will know anything other than a win on Saturday could prove costly for European ambitions.
Despite being a rejuvenated side under Marco Silva, the visitors have struggled for consistency with their results recently, winning three of their last eight matches and drawing twice.
Last Saturday’s victory over Swansea was huge, however, bringing them within touching distance of their Welsh rivals, and with winnable matches to follow they are in with a real chance of survival.
The only fresh injury concern for Ronald Koeman is that Leighton Baines is in a race against time to recover from a back injury ahead of Saturday’s match, and remains a doubt.
Marco Silva will once again be forced to reshuffle his attacking options, after Oumar Niasse – two-goal hero against Swansea City last week – is ineligible against his parent club. With Dieurmaci Mbokani ruled out through injury, 20-year-old forward Jarrod Bowen could partner Abel Hernandez in attack.
Michael Dawson, Will Keane, and Ryan Mason will also miss out for the Tigers.
Since Marco Silva’s arrival at Hull City over the festive period, he has managed to get his side displaying a level of passion and desire to battle that has lifted spirits in their relegation battle, yet a tough trip to an in-form Everton that are chasing down the top-six may prove to be a step too far.
The Tigers will arrive at Goodison Park dreaming of an upset – and full of confidence – after their ‘six-point’ victory over relegation rivals Swansea, but Everton should prove to have too much.
With the chance to leapfrog Manchester United into sixth place in the table, for 24 hours at least, Ronald Koeman’s side will know how critical a victory could prove, and they should do it with ease.
Despite the issues surrounding star striker Romelu Lukaku’s contract issues in the past week, the Belgian striker should play an important role in securing a timely victory for the Toffees.
Predicted Score: Everton 3-1 Hull City