West Ham United are very much in contention to finish in the top four, but to maintain their current fine form they have to negotiate a visit to an Everton side who they have not beaten since all the way back in 2007.
This represents something of a test of character for the Toffees, who have struggled for results at home of late despite having the majority of possession and territory in games. It has been on the road where they have found some solace as victory at Bournemouth took them into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup before they easily swept aside the limp challenge of bottom club Aston Villa in their last match. Off the pitch, the club has been boosted by much-needed new investment, so with a strong squad already in situ there is plenty of potential there.
Romelu Lukaku has already beaten the record for the most Premier League goals in a season by an Everton player, and here he will very much fancy his chances of adding to his tally as his record against West Ham is second to none. But this is a game where both teams should have their fair share of chances given the depth of attacking talent that the two managers have at their disposal, so it is down to Roberto Martinez’ men to show that ruthlessness they have lacked in recent home games.
At the beginning of the season, talk surrounding West Ham centred on how crucial that it was for the club to maintain Premier League status ahead of their impending move to the Olympic Stadium in 2016-17, but merely staying up is the least of their concerns now. With the established clubs faltering, the Champions League places are now very much within range, no matter how much manager Slaven Bilic plays them down as an unrealistic target. The quality and depth of the current squad suggests otherwise.
Bilic was very much the master tactician during the week as his decision to start with three central defenders and two wing-backs for the game against rivals and title hopefuls Tottenham totally paid off. An early goal from the in-form Michail Antonio aided their cause and eventually earned them a deserved win, but the system allowed them to nullify their opponents’ threat, with the ever-impressive Cheikhou Kouyate slotting in seamlessly at the back. It will take another big effort in order to gain a similar result here.
Midfielders Muhamed Besic and Darron Gibson are both in contention for Everton, who have doubts over Tom Cleverley and Bryan Oviedo.
The visitors have numerous defenders out with James Collins the latest on the casualty list. Sam Byram completes a two-match ban, while Diafra Sakho is not yet ready to return.
Last Meeting: A tight game went in Everton’s favour in November 2014 as Leon Osman marked his 400th game for the club by sliding home the winner from Samuel Eto’o’s cross. That came after a deflected shot from Mauro Zarate had cancelled out an opener from Romelu Lukaku.
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