The FourFourTwo Preview: Everton vs Swansea
The apprentice visits the brown-shoed master.
Having stumbled their way through January and February, winning just two of their seven league games, a European place is now once again very much Everton's to lose.
- Everton 2-1 Cardiff (Prem)
- Arsenal 4-1 Everton (FAC)
- Everton 1-0 West Ham (Prem)
- Chelsea 1-0 Everton (Prem)
- Everton 3-1 Swansea (FAC)
- Swansea 1-2 WBA (Prem)
- Swansea 1-1 Palace (Prem)
- Napoli 3-1 Swansea (EL)
- Liverpool 4-3 Swansea (Prem)
- Swansea 0-0 Napoli (EL)
The Toffees have been aided not only by the return of Romelu Lukaku and back-to-back wins over West Ham and Cardiff, but also the gloom setting in over Tottenham and Manchester United - not to mention Manchester City's League Cup final win stretching the European qualifying slots down to sixth.
Although the Champions League looks out of reach, the ball is firmly in their court as far as Europa League qualifying is concerned. Everton are two points behind Spurs with two games in hand, and three points ahead of Man United with one game in hand. Saturday's clash with Swansea is Everton's third successive league game at Goodison Park, and they'll be hoping to win it in less draining circumstances than their victories over West Ham (1-0) and Cardiff (2-1).
Both of those narrow wins were sealed with dramatic late goals - Lukaku scoring in the 81st minute against the Hammers, and Seamus Coleman in the 93rd against the Bluebirds. That's exactly what they did when the Swans last visited Goodison a little over a month ago.
Everton won that FA Cup fifth round tie 3-1 with goals from Lacina Traore, Steven Naismith and Leighton Baines. The fixture was the second of what currently stands as a seven-match winless run for the Swans, as a season that had initially promised so much descends into a tense relegation scrap. Garry Monk's side have slipped to 14th in the league, just four points and places above the drop zone, and with Arsenal and Chelsea to come in the next three weeks it's not inconceivable their struggle could continue until the season's finale.
Their cause would be helped by a win over Everton but history isn't on their side - in 19 previous meetings, the Welsh side have been unable to beat the Merseysiders, drawing five and losing 14.
Everton have doubts over the fitness of Phil Jagielka (hamstring) but Gareth Barry (shin) is expected to feature, while Steven Pienaar, Arouna Kone, Lacina Traore, Bryan Oviedo and Darron Gibson all remain sidelined.
Swansea will hope to have Nathan Dyer back from a foot injury, and could be dealt a further boost should Michu be ready to start a league game for the first time since early November.
Key battle: Romelu Lukaku vs Ashley Williams
Everton's 6ft 3in striker is renowned for being something of a powerhouse, but the 20-year-old didn't win any of his 9 aerial duels in the win over Cardiff, with the Bluebirds able to better the burly Belgian when the ball bothered the clouds. Swansea could perhaps learn a thing or two from their neighbours in this regard and, encouragingly, Ashley Williams won all 5 of his aerial duels in the Swans' defeat to West Brom - an altogether different challenge to the famously fridge-sized Lukaku, but something to cling to nonetheless.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Everton 3-1 Swans (FAC, Feb 14)
- Swans 1-2 Everton (Prem, Dec 13)
- Everton 0-0 Swans (Prem, Jan 13)
- Swans 0-3 Everton (Prem, Sep 12)
- Swans 0-2 Everton (Prem, Mar 12)
Everton boss Roberto Martinez will again be facing one of his former clubs, and will also have one of his former team-mates and players in the opposition dugout in the form of Monk. Martinez spoke highly of his former charge when the Englishman was appointed interim manager of the Swans last month. "Garry is very much part of Swansea City," the Spaniard said. "He understands the way of playing, the philosophy so it's not a big change."
Unfortunately for Monk, after starting spectacularly with a 3-0 win over arch rivals Cardiff, Swansea haven't quite looked their old selves.
Facts and figures
- Swansea have lost their last 10 away matches against top-half teams, and trailed at half-time in 7 of them.
- Everton have lost just 1 of their last 23 home games and have won 7 of the last 8.
- 11 of Everton’s 18 home games against bottom-half teams since the start of last season have had at least 3 goals, with 15 having at least 1 goal before half-time.
- 7 of Swansea’s last 8 away matches have had a first-half goal and 5 of the last 7 have seen more goals in the first half than the second.
Best Bet: First Half To Be Most Scoring Half @ 2.95
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Another win for the Toffees, but without that late drama. 2-0.