After both suffering defeats last week, Everton and West Bromwich Albion return to action; facing each other at Goodison Park.
The two sides, sitting 7th and 8th respectively, are generally considered as the ‘best of the rest’ in the Premier League, bridging a gap between the top-six and everyone else.
Back in August, when the reverse fixture was played, Everton came out on top. The Toffees overturned an early Gareth McAuley goal to leave the Hawthorns with all three points.
Since then the teams have faced similar fortunes. Only four points separate the two, with 11 games remaining, and both had put together decent unbeaten runs before last week.
Everton have an opportunity to maintain pressure on Manchester United, who face an FA cup tie this weekend, whilst West Brom will want to prove themselves as best of the mid-table group.
Prior to their recent loss at White Hart Lane, Everton had the best Premier League form in 2017. Nine games unbeaten saw them amass an impressive 21 points. Only a stand-out performance from Harry Kane put an end to the run.
West Brom travel to Goodison Park on the back a surprise home defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace. In that fixture the Baggies managed only a single shot on target, in a tame performance, to lose for the first time in six matches.
After tasting defeat with a more defensive setup last week, expect Everton to revert to a starting XI similar to that which beat Sunderland two weeks ago. Morgan Scheiderlin should again partner Idrissa Gana Gueye, with Ademola Lookman returning in place of Gareth Barry.
West Brom’s line-up scarcely changes, and last week’s 4-1-4-1 experiment looks set to be abandoned after a poor result. Tony Pulis will likely return to his trusted 4-2-3-1, particularly if key man Matt Phillips passes a late fitness test.
Everton West Bromwich Albion
Everton are still without long-term absentees Yannick Bolasie and Muhamed Besic. Young striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin has returned to training but is unlikely to be in contention.
West Brom’s only significant absence would the aforementioned Phillips, who has missed the last two fixtures with a hamstring injury. He will be given an opportunity to prove his fitness and should at least make the bench.
Given their positive start to 2017, Everton are understandably favourites for this tie. The Baggies, however, are no pushovers and will provide a stern test of the home side’s European ambitions.
Yet, in matches against sides currently above them (1st to 7th) West Brom have only taken a single point this season. Although they kept a clean-sheet on each of their last three visits to Goodison Park.
Score Prediction: Everton 1-0 West Bromwich Albion