Everton will be looking for their third consecutive Premier League victory when they welcome European hopefuls Southampton to Goodison Park on Saturday.
After some shambolic defending led to a humbling Europa League defeat at the hands of Dynamo Kiev, it will have been a huge psychological boost for the Toffees to respond with victory at Queens Park Rangers the following Sunday, as Aaron Lennon netted the winner with his first goal for the club.
Criticised for some below-par performances and ill-judged remarks off the field this season, Romelu Lukaku deserves credit for his recent upturn in form. He is back to being a striker that terrorises opposition defences with his pace and power, and has taken his goals tally for this season to 18 in all competitions.
But he could find it difficult to breach the Premier League’s strongest defence, which will remain mightily tough to break down despite the loss of goalkeeper Fraser Forster to a long-term injury. Replacement Kelvin Davis made a number of key saves as Southampton saw off Burnley in their last game.
Shane Long opened the scoring in that match and could lay claim to a more regular starting place as the season nears its end, with fellow striker Graziano Pelle in the midst of a domestic goal drought. If this encounter comes down to a battle between defences, the Saints should come out on top.
Lukaku should shake off a hamstring problem in time to play for Everton, who are also hopeful over the fitness of Kevin Mirallas and long-term absentee Steven Pienaar.
Along with Forster, the visitors are unable to call upon strikers Emmanuel Mayuka and Jay Rodriguez, while midfielder Steven Davis is a slight doubt with a groin injury.
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