Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Everton preview

After a run of three consecutive tricky away fixtures - from which we took a very impressive seven points - we're back at Eastlands tonight for the first time since the soporific draw with Liverpool thirty-one days ago. And we're about to start on a run of four fixtures from which we can realistically hope to take twelve points. Tonight will probably be the hardest, but Wigan at home, Burnley away and Birmingham at home are all games where a draw would hurt as much as a defeat.

That's almost true of tonight. But not quite. Everton have been playing excellently since Christmas - they would be third in a 2010 Premier League table. They schooled us at Goodison Park. This fixture clearly means quite a bit to them now after the Joleon Lescott saga. And they have a good record at CoMS - winning this game both last season and the season before. It's going to be harder than when Liverpool came to park the bus last month, probably our hardest home game since United came in January.

I'm sure Mancini will be tempted to keep the same team and system from Sunday. It was a surprise to see us go into an away game playing 4-4-2 but it worked well. Nigel de Jong will probably replace Patrick Vieira. The defence will stay the same. Craig Bellamy may be rested for Shaun Wright-Phillips, but it's unlikely. Then there's Stephen Ireland, whom I love and treasure but whose future I increasingly fear for: I'd be thrilled to see him play tonight but I can't see it.

Will we have enough to beat a spirited and in-form Everton side? It's very tight. We're narrow favourites but I'm going to predict another frustrating score draw at home. Two points dropped.

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