Everton vs Middlesbrough: Match preview and predicted line-ups
Everton have had a great start to the season under Ronald Koeman and look set for a much improved year. This weekend, they host Middlesbrough, who have impressed since returning to the Premier League. It will be another good test for the home side and a victory will consolidate their position near the top of the table.
There were some doubts about the Toffees after their transfer window, but the early indications are that they will be challenging in the top half, possibly even going some way to being this year’s Leicester City. Yannick Bolasie and Idrissa Gueye have already made an impact during the first four matches, with both consolidating their positions in the starting line-up. Romelu Lukaku returned to form against Sunderland with a second-half hat-trick and if he can find some consistency this season, there is no reason why Everton can’t push for a top six finish.
Middlesbrough have looked very solid at the beginning of this season and Alvaro Negredo provides them with a focal point in the final third. He could turn out to be one of the signings of the summer as he is capable of scoring the goals to fire Aitor Karanka’s men to survival.
During their first four matches, they have struggled to create chances and need to work on their creativity over the coming weeks. Viktor Fischer didn’t make an impact during his first Premier League outing and Karanka may be tempted to bring Gaston Ramirez back into the team.
Ronald Koeman’s Everton have taken ten points from their first four matches, putting them among the pace-setters in the division. They have been decent without being remarkable until their last match against Sunderland. Everything clicked and they played the Black Cats off the park, sending a warning to the rest of the league in the process.
Middlesbrough have played well for the most-part of their four matches, but will have been disappointed to lose last weekend against Crystal Palace. They have only conceded one goal from their two away matches and they will set up to frustrate Everton. Their side suits playing away from home and they will be confident of getting something from this weekend.
I don’t expect Everton to make any changes for the match on Saturday after their great performance against Sunderland. Ronald Koeman doesn’t like to change a winning team, which is unfortunate for Gerard Deulofeu who impressed during his second half display.
Gaston Ramirez is likely to come back in to the starting line-up to replace Viktor Fischer. Marten de Roon is another who could be in contention to start this weekend after coming on as a substitute against Palace.
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James McCarthy is missing with a groin strain and won’t return until the end of the month. Darron Gibson, Muhamed Besic and Tyias Browning are all likely to be missing this weekend.
Jordan Rhodes and Christian Stuani are doubts for the match this weekend. Fabio, James Husband and Grant Leadbitter are all missing through injury.
I don’t think that Everton will find it as easy as they did against Sunderland, but they should have enough to take the three points. It will be a tough game, due to the defensive quality that both sides possess. The return to form of Romelu Lukaku has come at a good time for Everton and he could be set to go on a good run of form in front of goal now his confidence is back. The Belgian could be the difference this weekend.
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