It looks set to be a sombre atmosphere at Goodison Park on Saturday as Everton begin to play out their season of dismal underachievement by taking on a Bournemouth side that has lost four of the last five games.
After such a miserable showing in being embarrassed at the home of bitter rivals Liverpool just three days prior, credit has to go to Everton for the manner in which they battled so hard in their FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. A goal down at half-time, they took the game to Manchester United and eventually found the equaliser their play deserved, so it was a cruel blow to concede a winning goal deep into stoppage time as an extra 30 minutes appeared to be looming.
With that one composed finish past Joel Robles went Everton’s campaign. It is effectively over, lying 11th in the Premier League and six points from the top half despite possessing a squad of much more considerable talent. With four games left to play there is very little to salvage, and major doubt will have only increased over the future of manager Roberto Martinez, the subject of increasing disquiet from the club’s supporters, and whose cause is seemingly not helped by the recent arrival of shareholder Farhad Moshiri.
It has been a tricky sequence of fixtures for Bournemouth as just three points have been taken from the last 15 available, but in all honesty they have not helped themselves by defending with naivety against teams full of quality. Last weekend against Chelsea they were caught wide open at the back and allowed the playmaking ability of Cesc Fabregas to gain too much freedom to pick out runners in behind who did not need a second invitation to exploit the space that was left.
It was a match that showed that if they can tighten up a little, the Cherries would stand a chance more often in matches like that. Going forward they often looked a threat, getting into threatening positions and forcing the Chelsea backline to chase back towards their own goal more often than they would have liked. This one promises to be a similarly open encounter and a goalless draw looks highly unlikely, so finding that greater efficiency could reap rewards for Eddie Howe’s men.
Gareth Barry is still unavailable for Everton along with defenders Ramiro Funes Mori and Seamus Coleman, while Phil Jagielka is also back on the sidelines.
Bournemouth are still without Harry Arter and Adam Smith, but could have winger Max Gradel back in contention following a calf injury.