Seven games left. Seven cup finals.
With five of those seven away from home, despite our lack of a top6 opponent, our run-in looks to be just as tough as our rivals, and first up is a resurgent Everton.
The Toffees not so long ago were mired in mediocrity, expensive purchases flopping and displays lacking any bite. Marco Silva was under severe pressure, but recent results has lifted the mood.
An impressive win over Chelsea and a comprehensive victory over West Ham has seen them rise to tenth, and dispel most doubts. They have kept clean sheets in both games too, but does two wins constitute a recovery?
Before those two games, the Toffees lost to Newcastle and drew with Liverpool, and we can have hope that we can leave Goodison with the points – if we radically overturn our away form.
Who can we call upon to make the team and earn the points?
Granit Xhaka and Laurent Koscielny both failed to train with the main group prior to this game, and Unai Emery said in his press conference that both players are in with a slim shout of playing should they pass a fitness test.
With the Swiss midfielder possibly missing out, Emery will most likely call on Matteo Guendouzi to fill the void after he did so against Newcastle in our last game. In regards to Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi will slide into his place, and the German managed to help us keep a clean sheet against the Magpies, so it’s not all bad news!
Lucas Torreira is serving the last of his three-game suspension, but Aaron Ramsey is available after being substituted with a groin concern against Newcastle last week.
Emery opted to keep Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the bench in our last game, and his introduction allowed us to wrap up the points. With us being away from home, will Emery opt for attack as the best form of defence, and play both Laca and Auba with Mesut Ozil?
Player to Watch
The Icelandic midfielder has been involved in a huge amount of goals, both scoring and assisting, and his set-plays will be a real cause for concern. With Cenk Tosun and/or Dominic Calvert-Lewin giving us an aerial worry, our defence need to hold firm, but most importantly, whoever is in midfield needs to shut down Sigurdsson.
How The Game Could Go
An away game is always filled with tension, and with our record that is justified. The key is how long we hold out for.
If we concede in the first half, then the pressure could cause us to panic a little, and heap it on in spades.
If we manage to keep it tight, we can push on in the second half and our attack should do the rest. It is highly unlikely that Laca, Auba and Ozil will all be kept quiet, and with the added threat of Ramsey’s late runs, we will score.
The real question is our defence. With former Gunner Theo Walcott in their ranks, we could be burned by a former player – and not for the first time. His speed could cause us worries.
Emery has switched it up between 3, 4 and five man defences this season and could opt for the latter to keep things under control. This gives us options in the second half if we need to score, with one of our wing-backs a possible switch for a striker or another attacking option.
Either way, this won’t be easy. Everton showed against Chelsea that they can keep up their press and then hit hard up top. If we are to maintain our push for the top four and show everyone that our away form can be improved – we need three points from this game.