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
Despite improvement, Everton should not rekindle Thomas Vermaelen interest
The Belgian defender has been in better form for Barcelona this season.
Rumours have emerged today suggesting Everton could be back in for Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen.
Catalan newspaper Sport has reported that the 32-year-old could be offered a new deal by Barcelona, with a team from the Premier League interested in signing him.
Sport Witness has openly hypothesised that Everton could be that team. Whilst there is no confirmation or substantiated report that is the case, the boot certainly fits.
Last summer Everton tried to sign Vermaelen.
As reported by the Liverpool Echo, at the time Barcelona vetoed a loan move to Everton as they felt the defender could be a useful asset.
The Belgian certainly has. After struggling with injuries and form throughout most of his Barcelona tenure the former Arsenal man has enjoyed a good season.
The 32-year-old has been a genuine asset to the Catalans, despite still being used sparingly, and such form has even seen him win back a place in Roberto Martinez’s national selection for Belgium.
If it is Everton interested in Vermaelen it is easy to see why. Centre-back has been a major problem for the club this season.
However, Vermaelen, or a player of his ilk, is not the answer to the Toffees’ woes.
The Belgian is obviously a talented player with plenty of experience, but Everton need to freshen up their back-line.
Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka’s age has shown in recent months.
The pair have been, at the best, inconsistent for the past 18 months and Everton need fresh young talent in the heart of defence if they are to succeed.
Vermaelen is not only 32 but also immensely injury prone. Everton need reliable figures to plug their leaky defences and the Belgian can simply not be relied upon.
Whilst on paper it seems a good deal, and one Everton could certainly turn to their benefit.
The truth is supporters of the Goodison Park outfit will hope they are not the club reportedly keen on bringing Vermaelen back to the Premier League.
Matty Foulds has not fulfilled two-year Everton promise
The one time ‘next John Stones’ has not lived up to his potential.
In November 2015, Everton agreed a deal to sign teenage defender Matty Foulds from Bury.
The then-17-year-old agreed to join Everton in January 2016 and was immediately hotly tipped for a bright future at Goodison Park.
As reported by the Liverpool Echo, the deal cost Everton £225,000 and the club expected him to be playing first-team football within the next two years.
Such high praise and expectation soon saw him earning the moniker of ‘next John Stones’, considering the England international’s rise from the Football League.
So, it is now over two years since Foulds joined Everton and, as of yet, the first-team has not been calling.
The now 20-year-old defender has not yet made his first-team debut or even a matchday squad.
Foulds, who played just four times in Everton’s triumphant Premier League 2 Division One win last season, has not made the progress many at the club thought he might.
This season, he has established himself as a more regular feature, playing 11 times, mostly as a left-back, despite originally arriving as a ball-playing centre-half.
Foulds, whose current deal expires in the summer of 2019, has clearly not lived up to expectation just yet.
It could be he has fallen victim to the change of management at Everton. Roberto Martinez spoke highly of Foulds when signing him.
The Spaniard would have had a vision of him playing first-team football for Everton, but Ronald Koeman and Sam Allardyce may not share such expectancy.
Foulds also has plenty of competition at Goodison Park.
Last season he could not get past the likes of Antonee Robinson, Callum Connolly, Morgan Feeney and first-team regulars Matthew Pennington and Mason Holgate.
This campaign he has been a regular but has not featured in the club’s last four under-23 ties.
Lewis Gibson has been preferred at left-back with Foulds also struggling with injury.
It certainly appears as though Foulds has not lived up to the expectations Everton had for him when he first arrived.
Next season, contractually, is his last at Finch Farm and Foulds will need to massively improve if he is to have any long-term future at Goodison Park.
Everton must secure Frank Fabra signing before World Cup
The Colombian is set to star at the World Cup with his nation.
Everton are currently being linked with a move for Colombian left-back Frank Fabra. According to Argentine radio station El Crack Deportivo, the 27-year-old is being considered as the left-back option Everton need.
Everton have been lacking in the department this season. With Leighton Baines suffering injury trouble throughout the campaign, natural right-back Cuco Martina has done his best in the role. Everton thoroughly need a new left-back and Fabra is an impressive option.
The Boca Juniors defender was linked with Manchester United and Chelsea by Sky Italia’s Gianluca Di Marzio in 2016. A powerful full-back, he has all it takes to be a star in European football.
Everton are, therefore right, to be targeting the Boca star. However, the Toffees must try to wrap up any potential deal before the World Cup in Russia this summer.
Fabra is looking increasingly likely to be Colombia’s first-choice at the competition. Pablo Armero has had his day and Fabra is the popular choice to play the role of left-back or left wing-back.
Colombia, who are in Group H with Japan, Poland and Senegal, have high hopes of going far in the competition. Four years ago they suffered a narrow quarter-final exit at the hands of Brazil.
Fabra will no doubt be key to any success that Colombia have in the competition and therefore will catch the eye.
Everton will be fully aware what a top World Cup performance can do to a player’s value. If the Toffees want to bring in Fabra doing so before the Russia World Cup could end up being a worthwhile cost-cutting exercise.
Regardless, Everton fans will just be pleased to hear that the club are starting to identify potential options to strengthen one of their weakest positions on the field, even if it is not a household name.
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