The FourFourTwo Preview: Hull vs Everton
Titanic clash of next season’s Europa League representatives from England. Still not that excited? Nah, neither are we.
Hull are safe from relegation and preparing for an FA Cup final. Fifth-placed Everton have secured qualification to Europe’s markdown competition and can’t be caught by Tottenham or Manchester United. It’s safe to say this game is going to be played at a docile tempo as the players’ minds wander to bikini-clad groupies, hot tubs and pints of Cristal champagne.
- Man Utd 3-1 Hull (Prem)
- Aston Villa 3-1 Hull (Prem)
- Fulham 2-2 Hull (Prem)
- Hull 0-3 Arsenal (Prem)
- Hull 5-3 Sheffield Utd (FAC)
- Everton 2-3 Man City (Prem)
- So'ton 2-0 Everton (Prem)
- Everton 2-0 Man Utd (Prem)
- Everton 2-3 Palace (Prem)
- S'land 0-1 Everton (Prem)
But, there is one thing that could prick the interest of the players and fans alike: a starting berth in the FA Cup final.
OK, no fan is going to earn a spot in Steve Bruce’s line-up by running onto the pitch and crunching Romelu Lukaku, but some of the Hull players will be playing for their places at Wembley and that could spice up this end-of-season dead rubber.
It’s also a last chance to impress for those hoping to book their place on the plane to Brazil. Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka and Ross Barkley are all but assured of a spot in Roy Hodgson’s squad, but an impressive display at the KC Stadium will give them that final nudge into the departure lounge.
For Hull, there’s also pride and prize money at stake. Right now they're 15th – if results go their way they could climb to 12th. This would guarantee Bruce a few extra millions pounds for transfers in the summer. However, should they lose and the teams around them win, the Tigers could finish 17th – just above the relegation zone. That’s not going to do their global appeal any favours.
Unfortunately there will no return to action for Everton’s long-term absentees Steven Pienaar, Bryan Oviedo, Arouna Kone, Darron Gibson and Lacina Traore. Kevin Mirallas’ groin injury means he will also the final game of the season. Bruce has said he plans to give Paul McShane, Allan McGregor and James Chester the chance to prove themselves ahead of the FA Cup final.
Player to watch: Ross Barkley (Everton)
Message for David Meyler: Can you please not stamp on Barkley? We’d quite like him to be fit for the World Cup. The FA may step in before Sunday and ban the Irishman for planting his studs into the left leg of Adnan Januzaj, but if they don’t Roberto Martinez needs to slip some sedatives into his pre-match drink.
Barkley’s athleticism, technical ability and boldness make him an essential weapon in Hodgson’s arsenal. He demonstrated what he has to offer during Everton’s 3-2 defeat at home to Manchester City. The 20-year-old swept a brilliant, curling shot into the top-left corner of the net, out of Joe Hart’s reach. Barkley was the game’s second-top passer, completing 68 of 75 attempts. Only City’s Sami Nasri found more team-mates in the attacking third. With the ball at his feet he was fearless, dribbling past an opponent 9 times.
Meyler, if we haven’t made it clear already, stay away from out beloved Ross.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Everton 2-1 Hull (Prem, Oct 13)
- Everton 5-1 Hull (Prem, Mar 10)
- Hull 3-2 Everton (Prem, Nov 09)
- Hull 0-4 Everton (LC, Sep 09)
- Everton 2-0 Hull (Prem, Jan 09)
For Bruce, Saturday is all about preparing his team for their first-ever FA Cup final, even if they have taken just one point from their last four games. To make matters worse, they’ve also conceded 14 goals in their last five outings. “It is a concern [the poor form],” said Bruce. “It’s been my hardest problem at the moment to just keep everyone focused on what lies ahead. We need the final to come around quick but make no mistake we'll be ready. They’ll all want to play [against Arsenal], but I have to make the right decisions. It would be foolish of me to risk three or four, but we’ll see.”
Everton are in an equally bad run of form – three defeats in their last four games, which cost them a shot at Champions League football – but Europa League qualification has pleased Martinez. “It’s disappointing our Champions League hopes are over,” said Martinez. “It was a dream we had at the beginning of the season. The reality is for us to have had a mathematical chance with two games to go is an incredible achievement. But getting into Europe is phenomenal.”
And he urged Hodgson to take Barkley to South America. “If Ross is called up, then he will be ready. He can offer something unique. I don’t think there’s anybody else in the England squad who has his qualities.”
Facts and figures
- Everton have been level at half-time in 9 of their last 12 trips to bottom-half teams.
- Everton’s last 5 away wins against bottom-half teams have all been Draw/Win doubles.
- 5 of Hull’s last 11 matches have had at least 4 goals.
- Hull have lost by at least 2 clear goals in 4 of their last 6 home games against top-half teams.
With an FA Cup final and World Cup looming, there’s too much at stake to risk injury. Drab 1-1 draw.