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Tonight brings another of those key games for us with Everton the visitors for a match that was originally scheduled to be played on Boxing Day.

The Premier League called the game off because of Covid and injuries in the Everton squad but had the game gone ahead that day we’d have gone into it in eighteenth place with Everton up in fourteenth with eight more points than us.

I was never keen on us playing them on Boxing Day. In my first season as a Claret they beat us 3-1 at the Turf on that date and, more recently, they’ve recorded wins against us on the same date in 2018/19 (5-1 at the Turf) and 2019/20 (2-0 at Goodison).

That will count for nothing tonight any more than the fact that our six Premier League wins against them is matched only by Bournemouth and Crystal Palace. Four of those wins have come at home and we can’t match that against any other team in the Premier League.

What does count is us going into the game in 19th place in the table and edging closer to relegation after six successive years in the Premier League. In recent weeks we’ve seen teams pull away from us, teams we thought we could catch. Although they’ve all played more games than us, Brentford now have a twelve point lead on us with Newcastle and Leeds now ten and nine points respectively.

Apart from Watford, who are ahead of us by one point, Everton are now the only other side within any sort of reach. They lead us by four points currently and have played the same number of games. Should we draw against them tonight it would take us above Watford on goal difference, a win would take us within a point of Everton, but a defeat would very definitely be leaving us with a mountain to climb.

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Just over four years ago, we signed Aaron Lennon from Everton. He’s currently having a good run in the first team. He said this week: “It is a massive game, there’s no hiding from it. We look at the table and know how big this is, it’s a home and for us to get three points would put us in a strong position going into the weekend.

“We just have to do what we do. We know how to win these games and know what we’re like at home, so we need to stick to our strengths and go out there with the right attitude to give it everything.”

Lennon had started just the home game against Norwich when he was drafted into the team at Manchester United at the end of December. He’s started all of the games since although I understand he was close to missing last Saturday’s game against Manchester City.

He is expected to play tonight but we’ll still have players missing. Nathan Collins is available again having been ruled out last Saturday as he served a one match ban. There’s also good news on Matěj Vydra; he came through just over an hour with the under-23s last Friday and is likely to be in the squad tonight. However, there is still no sign of a return for any of Ben Mee, Erik Pieters or Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson. Mee has missed the last three matches and it’s four for Pieters. JBG hasn’t featured since coming on as a substitute at Arsenal and he’s some way away.

What will the team be? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a season where so often you didn’t think it would be the same team as the previous game and I suspect that will be the same again tonight. Collins could come back in for Kevin Long and I think Maxwel Cornet will start with Jack Cork potentially dropping out should Cornet play up front. He could play him on the left for Dwight McNeil and then I’d expect Jay Rodriguez to come in.

We could line up: Nick Pope, Connor Roberts, Nathan Collins, James Tarkowski, Charlie Taylor, Aaron Lennon, Josh Brownhill, Ashley Westwood, Maxwel Cornet, Wout Weghorst, Jay Rodriguez. Subs from: Wayne Hennessey, Will Norris, Matt Lowton, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Bobby Thomas, Owen Dodgson, Dale Stephens, Jack Cork, Dwight McNeil, Ashley Barnes, Matěj Vydra.

Everton ended last season in the top half of the Premier League with 59 points. They were just three points shy of Spurs in seventh place and a potential European campaign. The summer saw the club disrupted with manager Carlo Ancelotti leaving and they eventually appointed Rafael Benitez, a decision that didn’t go down too well given his previous association with the club on the other side of the park. It didn’t work and by the end of January he’d been replaced by former Derby and Chelsea boss Frank Lampard.

Even so, I don’t think anyone back in August would have ever considered Everton would be so low in the table and the season got off to a good start with three wins and a draw in the first four games. That included their 3-1 win against us at Goodison where they came from behind with three goals in six minutes; it’s still difficult to believe we lost that game, but for those few mad minutes we wouldn’t have.

Since Lampard took over, they’ve beaten Leeds and Newcastle, both at Goodison Park although the recent win against Newcastle came at a cost with the dismissal of Allan whose three match suspension comes to an end after tonight’s game when they will also be without former Claret Michael Keane who received the first red card of his career last weekend at West Ham.

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Everton will also be without Donny van de Beek tonight with a thigh injury which forced him out of the West Ham game during the warm up. They do, however, have both Séamus Coleman (pictured above) and Fabian Delph available after injury although Yerry Mina, Tom Davies and Andros Townsend all remain absent with long term injuries.

Everton’s team at West Ham was: Jordan Pickford, Jonjoe Kenny, Michael Keane, Ben Godfrey, Vitalii Mykolenko, Abdoulaye Doucouré, Mason Holgate, Alex Iwobi, Demarai Gray, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison. Subs: Asmir Begovic, Andy Lonergan, Jarrad Branthwaite, Anwar El Ghazi, Dele Alli, Anthony Gordon, Salomón Rondón, Isaac Price, Lewis Dobbin.

 

LAST TIME THEY WERE HERE

 

Everton last played at the Turf in December 2020. We’d won our previous home game against Crystal Palace but came into this game on the back of a 5-0 defeat against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

We got off to a good start with Robbie Brady scoring what proved to be his final Burnley goal in only the third minute of the game. Ashley Westwood intercepted a ball forward from Everton, he slipped it to Brady who fired home a right foot shot into the bottom corner from outside the penalty area.

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It was a good first half from the Clarets but we lost our lead in the third minute of stoppage time at the end of the half with Dominic Calvert-Lewin turning the ball home from a low Allan cross.

Everton got a lift from that goal and started the second half well but we got back on top but couldn’t find a winner although the point did, over the weekend, move us ahead of West Brom on goal difference and into 18th place.

The teams were;

Burnley: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Robbie Brady (Josh Benson 86), Josh Brownhill, Ashley Westwood, Dwight McNeil, Chris Wood, Jay Rodriguez (Ashley Barnes 75). Subs not used: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Kevin Long, Jimmy Dunne, Erik Pieters, Matěj Vydra.

Everton: Jordan Pickford, Ben Godfrey, Yerry Mina, Michael Keane, Alex Iwobi, Abdoulaye Doucouré (Gylfi Sigurdsson 81), Allan (Cenk Tosun 89), Fabian Delph (André Gomes 29), James Rodríguez, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison. Subs not used: Jonas Lössl, Mason Holgate, Bernard, Tom Davies.

 

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