Last week’s defeat at home to Crystal Palace was a major set back in the Baggies’ bid to qualify for Europe, but if they can repeat last season’s victory at Goodison Park, seventh place will be within reach once again.
Everton and Albion have been matching one another’s results for the last few weeks maintaining a gap of four points in the race for what could be the last European qualification spot. If one of the top six were to win the FA Cup, the final Europa League qualification place would fall to the team finishing 7th in the Premier League.
After an impressive run of form that saw Tony Pulis’s team hit the 40 point mark, the defeat to Palace was unexpected. Some may fear that we could see a repeat of last season’s dip in form that saw the Baggies fail to win another game after hitting 40 points, and the team need to show that last week’s dismal performance was a one-off by putting in a good display at Goodison Park.
It will be a tough ask, however, with Everton having won their last four games at home since their only league defeat at Goodison this season against Liverpool before Christmas, scoring fifteen goals in the process. Former Baggie, Romelu Lukaku, is having a fantastic season having scored 18 Premier League goals already this season, which matches his total for all of last season. Since moving to Everton, he has scored three goals against the Baggies although all three were scored at the Hawthorns.
Last season’s encounter was a typical Pulis 1-0 away win, an effective defensive display. Such performances have been few and far between this season as Albion have won only two games by that scoreline with the only one away from home coming on the opening day of the season. With the Baggies having lost every game away from home to sides currently above them in the table, it will take something very different to get three points this weekend.
While Pulis has adopted a more attacking approach, albeit on the break, against the bottom half teams this season, his tactics against the top sides have remained those of containment, and they have by-and-large failed. A different attitude may be needed this weekend – Everton will be expected to win this game, and may well leave one or two gaps at the back, although with six clean sheets from their last ten league games, Albion will need to clinical in order to break through.
It has been fortunate that the Baggies’ meagre squad has not suffered too many injuries this season, but Matt Phillips’s hamstring problems have been noticed in recent weeks. There was a distinct lack of spark last Saturday, something that Phillips has provided on many an occasion this season, and a return would be most welcome at Goodison.
The hosts, on the other hand, will be without long term injury victims Yannick Bolassie and Muhamed Bešić, but otherwise, Ronald Koeman has a fully fit squad to choose from.
It will be a good result for the Baggies if they can avoid back-to-back defeats, and I can see them coming away with a point, which probably won’t be enough it they are serious about finishing 7th.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
20 Aug 2016 – Premier League
West Brom 1 (McAuley)
Everton 2 (Mirallas, Barry)
Last meeting at Everton
13 Feb 2016 – Premier League
West Brom 1 (Rondón)
Albion’s Record against Everton
|Premier League Record|