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
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.
Ronald Koeman admits he wanted Memphis Depay at Everton
But would Everton have benefited from his arrival?
Ronald Koeman is about to kickstart his managerial career with the Dutch national team. It is his first role since getting sacked by Everton and his first foray into international management. Speaking about his new role he discussed the former Manchester United winger Memphis Depay.
Speaking to the press, as reported by Football Oranje, Koeman revealed that he had tried to convince Depay to join Everton whilst he was manager at Goodison Park:
“I invited him to my home last year, when I wanted to get him to Everton. That did not work, he went to Lyon.”
Depay was with Manchester United at the time, where he had struggled to live up to his potential. Instead of joining Everton he headed to Lyon in France in a deal reported by the Telegraph to be worth £16 million.
So have Everton missed out?
Depay’s struggles to settle in English football are well known. Since his move to France things have certainly improved. Depay has scored 18 goals since his move to France. However, considering he scored 28 goals in his final season at PSV prior to his United switch it is still not a massive amount.
In the time he has been in France those 18 goals have come from 61 games. His form has been good at Lyon but certainly not to the standard many expected of him when he made the move to Manchester United.
That said, £16 million today in today’s market is not a lot of money. Looking at Everton’s team, having Depay playing from the left side would have been a massive bonus for Koeman, and now for Sam Allardyce.
Depay still has plenty to improve upon and hopefully Koeman can get the best out of him during his time as the Netherlands boss.
As for Everton, they did not get their man and paid a lot more for the man he would be battling for first-team football Yannick Bolasie – who has not yet been a hit at Goodison Park.
So, all things considered, Everton probably should wish Koeman had managed to convince Depay into a Merseyside switch last January.
Are Chelsea finally going to see the best of Alvaro Morata?
Sessegnon or Bale? Past or future? Spurs must make right move this summer
Amadou Haidara released by Leeds United, bringing an end to bizarre transfer chapter
Jack Wilshere’s Everton arrival would surely spell the end for Morgan Schneiderlin?
Matthew Pennington’s future looks away from Everton after loan woes
Tottenham Hotspur3 weeks ago
Tottenham Hotspur must push Toby Alderweireld toward Barcelona
Liverpool3 weeks ago
Jurgen Klopp’s brave January decision is playing off thanks to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Brentford4 weeks ago
Romaine Sawyers – Blossoming in the Championship with play-off contenders Brentford
Liverpool3 weeks ago
Mohamed Salah: Is Liverpool’s Egyptian star the best player in the world right now?
English Premier League2 weeks ago
Liverpool 2-0 Newcastle United: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain growing into role under Jurgen Klopp
Chelsea2 days ago
Are Chelsea finally going to see the best of Alvaro Morata?
Liverpool3 weeks ago
Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold finds himself at the centre of Jurgen Klopp’s plans
Arsenal3 weeks ago
Arsenal 0-3 Manchester City: Three talking points from Wembley