Everton will be determined to find a solution to their home struggles as they look for a first win in six Premier League games against Southampton, who still retain realistic hopes of a European place for next season.
It is now nearly a month since Everton’s most recent Goodison Park failure, and in the intervening period they have managed to take two points from three away matches, which has seen them limp to the 40-point mark.
On Wednesday they were able to withstand great pressure from Crystal Palace in order to come away with a goalless draw after being reduced to 10 men early in the second half, producing a strong rear-guard action in the absence of captain Phil Jagielka, although there were several nervous moments.
It will be interesting to see what kind of reception manager Roberto Martinez gets from the stands if things go against them here, just a week away from the FA Cup semi-final with Manchester United which could lead to them salvaging something from this disappointing campaign.
This game could see both sides match each other up in terms of their formations, although the visitors have recently adopted a system whereby they play with three central defenders. Everton could have some should this scenario come to fruition, given the runs that Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman make from full-back.
With their nearest rivals for a place in the top six dropping points last weekend, Southampton’s hopes were boosted by a comfortable victory over a tame Newcastle United. Ahead within four minutes, they were rarely tested all afternoon, so can expect a much tougher assignment here, at a ground where they have not fared too well in recent years.
When in good form there are few better teams in the Premier League to watch than Ronald Koeman’s men, who are capable of playing with such eye-catching fluency and understanding. That was in evidence against Newcastle as the front three of Shane Long, Sadio Mane and Graziano Pelle dovetailed so well and scored three stylish goals.
One thing the Saints do need to be mindful of is Everton’s ability on the break, having been picked off time and again when the sides met on the South coast back in August. But they have every reason to head into the game with confidence and make it four wins from five.
James McCarthy is suspended for Everton after he was dismissed at Palace. The hosts have a number of other concerns as Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley and Aaron Lennon are carrying knocks.
Last Meeting: Everton won for the third successive game back in April 2015 as Phil Jagielka scored the only goal after 16 minutes following a corner. The central defender touched the ball in from close range just minutes after Graziano Pelle has been wonderfully denied by Tim Howard at the other end with Southampton’s best effort.
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