Everton welcome West Bromwich Albion to Goodison Park on Wednesday night, aiming to end a barren spell in front of goal and return to winning ways in the Premier League, says Matthew Desai.
The Blues have managed to tighten up a leaky defence in recent weeks, keeping consecutive clean sheets, but it has come at the cost of goals at the other end of the pitch, leading to two goalless draws in two weeks.
West Brom’s quest for European football has stagnated over the past month, having lost three and drawn one of their last four Premier League games. However, Steve Clarke’s side still occupy a healthy eighth place in the table and present a tough challenge for Everton.
The Toffees played out their second successive Premier League goalless draw at Southampton last Monday night. The hosts, under a new manager, had the better of the first half and felt hard done by not to go in ahead, but an improved second half performance from David Moyes’ men deemed a draw a fair reflection of the evening’s events.
The Baggies produced a fine comeback to earn a point at home to struggling Aston Villa in their last Premier League fixture ten days ago. First half strikes from Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor put The Villans in a strong position, but Chris Brunt and Peter Odemwingie’s goals after the break ensured a share of the spoils in the Midlands derby.
Everton look set to be without Seamus Coleman for at least another couple of weeks after the full-back was withdrawn at Southampton last week. Darron Gibson is approaching a return to first-team action, while Tony Hibbert’s injury status remains unclear. Predictions on Kevin Mirallas would be foolish, but he is unlikely to feature.
The visitors could have Claudio Yacob available after a shoulder injury sustained against Aston Villa. Shane Long (thigh), Steven Reid (calf) and Marc-Antoine Fortune (hamstring) may also return, however Zoltan Gera will miss the remainder of the season with a serious knee injury.
Everton will be frustrated to have drawn their last two games, especially against very beatable opposition, but must remember that just one defeat in thirteen on all fronts is the form of a side who should still maintain real aspirations for fourth place. The Blues have lost just three times this season, one of those coming in the corresponding fixture back in September, so despite a downturn in form, The Baggies pose a genuine threat.