|Three derby fixtures take place on Sunday and although the majority of them take place in London, one should not forget the small matter of a clash on Merseyside as Liverpool and Everton square off in a bid for bragging rights in the North West.
Liverpool go into this weekend lying second in the table, but the two point gap that they had at the close of last Sunday may well end up being five by the time a ball has been kicked at Anfield. With Manchester City playing the day before, they have the perfect chance to pull clear at the top.
Whatever happens at the Etihad, Jurgen Klopp and his players know that they need to concentrate on the task in hand and that is getting the better of a high flying Everton side who themselves start this weekend in the heady heights of sixth in the Premier League.
The Toffees have been going about the business quietly as of late and it is fair to say that they have flown under the radar with them now moving ahead of a continually struggling Manchester United side under the managerial reign of Jose Mourinho.
And Everton broke into the top six after a hard fought and narrow win over Cardiff last Saturday, Gylfi Sigurdsson was the hero as his second half finish from close range broke the resistance of Neil Warnock’s men.
Everton will have their work cut out to come out on top at Anfield, but at the same time they can look back on their recent draw at Stamford Bridge as evidence of what they are capable of when going up against the teams right at the top of the table.
That trip to Stamford Bridge before the November international break saw them earn a very creditable draw and had they had a bit more firepower at their disposal late on, then they could very well have earned all three points against the Blues.
Will Marco Silva look to implement a similar game plan at Anfield this Sunday? To be fair it would probably make sense, if Everton can get a foothold in the game early and pack out the midfield then it will cut off the supply that Liverpool will look to provide the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
Salah opened the scoring last Saturday as Liverpool eventually worked their way up through the gears to beat Watford 3-0. After a goalless first 45 minutes, there was no panic from the visiting Reds as their extra quality shone through in the end.
The only blot on their copybook was the fact that Jordan Henderson was sent off for two yellow cards and will miss this Merseyside derby due to suspension. However, you get the feeling that Liverpool will have enough in their midfield ranks to cope with his absence.
And they will arguably have enough in the final third to make sure that they come out on top and continue to apply the pressure on last season’s Premier League champions Manchester City. Liverpool to win and also keep a clean sheet, looks like where the smart money should go.
Paul Lambert cannot seem to find the result required to pull his Stoke side out of the bottom three, no win in their last six outings has seen the Potters lie second bottom going into this weekend’s clash with Everton.
A win could see them move out of the relegation zone as there is a whole host of inactivity around them, but defeat would mean they would have played a game more than their relegation rivals with nothing to show for it.
Standing in their way is an Everton side who got the better of Brighton last Saturday and subsequently moved back into the top half of the table. Sam Allardyce’s men have conceded the most goals in the top half while Stoke have conceded the most in the division.
This would indicate that there will be goals on the horizon as neither side is in possession of having a watertight defence this season, at the same time though Stoke have been hard to beat as of late with only two defeats in their last six league outings.
The problem is that they have not won any of their last six either, four draws and two defeats from their last half dozen league matches sees them in their current league standing, it is the fine margins of not being able to find an extra goal here or there that sees them in the bottom three.
It only would have needed one of those draws to be converted into a win and Stoke would go into this game outside of the relegation, such are the fine margins that the teams in the bottom half of the table are dealing with right now.
That said, former Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert can take solace in the fact that his side are still in with a chance of getting out of the drop zone, but a win is going to have to come from somewhere and you get the feeling that this weekend would be as good a time as any.
Their opposition Everton, will still have designs on finishing in 7th and the potential Europa League slot that it will offer next season. They currently find themselves six points behind Burnley, while a win on Saturday would take them level with Leicester in 8th while having played a game more.
The Toffees will be without Gylfi Sigurdsson and there will also be question marks as to who will be on penalty duty should the opportunity present itself. Former England captain Wayne Rooney missed his third spot kick of the season against Brighton last Saturday and looks set to be relieved of his duties.
Their January transfer window signing Cenk Tosun endeared himself to his new fans after scoring in the 2-0 win against Brighton and he will be pushing for a start once more, while the same can be said about youngster Dominic Calvert-Lewin who was impressive in his role as substitute last Saturday afternoon.
The fact that Everton have failed to win any of their last seven away Premier League matches coupled with Stoke failing to win any of their last six, makes you wonder just who will come out on top. Forebet predicts that Everton will beat the inconsistent Stoke City at “365 Stadium” on Saturday.
Everton boss Sam Allardyce has revealed that Eliaquim Mangala could be out “long-term”, just two games into a loan spell from Manchester City.
Mangala has featured in a defeat at Arsenal and the victory over Crystal Palace last time out, but he has sustained an injury while the Toffees have taken a mid-season training trip to Dubai.
Allardyce hopes the return of Seamus Coleman, Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines will help cover the Frenchman’s absence, while Ramiro Funes Mori recently played for the Under-23 side, having spent almost a year out due to knee injuries.
He said: “Seamus Coleman, we hope, will be fit very quickly and, if we can get Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines back in the squad quickly, then we are stronger in terms of our selection.
“The injuries this week were a blow, with Mangala in particular – that looks like it could be long-term, which is a great shame for him and for us because I think he was a very good addition to the squad.
“But, overall, we are in a good position to try to finish the season strongly.”
Everton are ninth in the league with 11 games to play, Allardyce having steered the Toffees eight points clear of the drop zone.
Gylfi Sigurdsson hit a glorious goal for Everton on his first appearance against old employers Swansea City, helping to set up a 3-1 Premier League victory on Monday.
The £45million signing endured a difficult start to life at Goodison Park but repaid a chunk of his large fee with a stunning strike in a fine comeback for Sam Allardyce’s side.
Everton have now taken 13 points from five Premier League matches as their Allardyce-inspired revival continues, while Swansea remain rooted to the bottom of the table after suffering a sixth straight away loss.
Swansea took the lead after a flat start to the game, Ashley Williams at fault from Tom Carroll’s corner as Leroy Fer was left unmarked to finish well.
But they were in front only 12 minutes, Dominic Calvert-Lewin marking his new contract with a goal, profiting from a rebound after Lukasz Fabianski had superbly saved Wayne Rooney’s penalty, awarded for Roque Mesa’s clumsy challenge on Aaron Lennon.
Sigurdsson then cut inside to unleash an unstoppable finish that reminded Swansea exactly what they are missing in his absence, with Rooney wrapping up the points from 12 yards after Swansea conceded another penalty.
Swansea had scored the same number of league goals as Rooney – nine – at kick-off and their lack of attacking confidence was demonstrated when Luciano Narsingh shot straight at Jordan Pickford.
Fabianski made a comfortable stop after 21 minutes when Calvert-Lewin, one of three young Everton players to sign a new contract last week, went for goal from 20 yards.
Lennon nutmegged Alfie Mawson to create himself an opening, only to shoot tamely wide, before Pickford easily saved Carroll’s free-kick at the other end.
But the Everton goalkeeper could do little as Swansea nudged ahead after 34 minutes.
Carroll’s right-wing corner was missed by former Swansea defender Williams, with Fer timing his run at the back post to slam home from close range.
Martin Olsson rifled wide as Swansea threatened again, but Everton levelled in first-half stoppage-time after Jon Moss awarded a penalty for Mesa bundling into Lennon.
Fabianski dived low to his left to turn Rooney’s spot-kick on to the post, but Calvert-Lewin was perfectly positioned to slam in the rebound for his second Premier League goal of December.
Sigurdsson’s shot was claimed by Fabianski despite an awkward bounce after 58 minutes, but the Iceland international put Everton in front with his next effort.
Rooney was given time and space to spread the play to Sigurdsson, who came in off the left flank to whip a delightful 25-yard strike across Fabianski and into the top-right corner.
Moss pointed to the spot once more after Olsson tripped Jonjoe Kenny, although the contact looked to be outside the box, with Rooney this time thumping his effort through Fabianski’s despairing dive.
Fabianski at least kept the score down by denying Calvert-Lewin his second with five minutes to go, but another defeat leaves Swansea four points from safety and in the doldrums, while Everton climb a place to ninth.
Key Opta stats
– Everton have picked up 13 points from their last five Premier League games, one more than they managed in their previous 13 games.
– Swansea have now lost 19 Premier League away games since the start of last season; more than any other club.
– Everton’s 12 points claimed from losing positions is the most in the Premier League this term.
– Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been directly involved in 11 goals for Everton in 2017-18 across all competitions (seven goals, four assists), a figure only Wayne Rooney can better (14).
– Rooney has failed to score with 10 of his 33 Premier League penalty kicks overall, with only Alan Shearer failing to convert more (11 of 67).
– Gylfi Sigurdsson has been directly involved in five goals in his last seven Premier League games (three goals, two assists), after failing to score or provide an assist in his first 10 this season.
Sam Allardyce’s Everton reign started in victorious fashion, as Gylfi Sigurdsson and Dominic Calvert-Lewin earned a 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town at Goodison Park on Saturday.
The former England manager was officially appointed as Ronald Koeman’s permanent successor on Thursday and, although Everton failed to produce a performance to match Wednesday’s 4-0 hammering of West Ham United, they at least managed to secure back-to-back Premier League wins for the first time this season.
The first 45 minutes of Allardyce’s tenure were rather forgettable, with both sides lacking imagination in attack, contributing to a tepid half of football.
But things were quick to liven up after the break, with Sigurdsson putting Everton ahead with an excellent goal in the 47th minute.
Both sides appeared more willing to push men forward in the second period, resulting in a significant increase in entertainment, but Everton continued to look the better in attack.
And they ultimately wrapped up all three points 17 minutes from the end through the lively Calvert-Lewin, giving Allardyce a solid start to life on Merseyside.
Neither side was able to exert much control over proceedings early on, with the first 20 minutes scrappy and severely devoid of quality.
Everton managed to up the tempo eventually, however, and a quick passing move brought about their first chance in the 26th minute, as Cuco Martina saw a lovely curling 25-yard effort pushed away by Jonas Lossl in the Huddersfield goal.
But that opportunity failed to inspire a prolonged period of Everton pressure.
If anything, it encouraged an improvement from Huddersfield, who suddenly started to enjoy some command.
And they almost took the lead five minutes before the break, but Laurent Depoitre could not prod the ball past Jordan Pickford in a goalmouth scramble.
Everton instantly looked better after the break and swiftly took the lead in style.
Aaron Lennon cut in from the right and passed to Calvert-Lewin on the edge of the area, with the young forward producing a glorious flick that split the Huddersfield defence to find Sigurdsson, who applied the finish.
Huddersfield responded well and stepped things up a notch.
Tom Ince went close a few moments later, running at Jonjoe Kenny before sending a left-footed drive into the side-netting.
But Huddersfield had to rely on Lossl just after the hour, as Calvert-Lewin saw a goal-bound 20-yard effort crucially pushed away.
He was not to be denied in the 73rd minute, though his goal had more than a hint of luck to it.
Wayne Rooney played him into the penalty area and Calvert-Lewin saw his left-footed effort deflect off Mathias Jorgensen and over the helpless Lossl.
That goal proved to be a real sucker-punch for the visitors, and Everton had little difficulty seeing things out thereafter, moving on to 18 points as a result of victory.
Wayne Rooney scored his first Everton hat-trick to seal a crushing 4-0 win over West Ham, with new manager Sam Allardyce a delighted Goodison Park spectator.
David Moyes could only watch on aghast as his side were put to the sword by his old club, who have beaten Moyes teams at an aggregate tune of 12-0 since the Scot’s departure for Manchester united in 2013.
Rooney was recalled to the side as David Unsworth took charge of the senior side for the final time in his caretaker stint and the former England skipper responded with two goals in the first half, opening the scoring on the rebound from his own penalty after Joe Hart had pulled down Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
The Everton captain then slotted home his second of the evening just before the half-hour mark, capitalising on some poor defending and sweeping home from inside the box.
West Ham improved after the break but Jordan Pickford saved a Manuel Lanzini penalty before Rooney drilled home his third from inside his own half and Ashley Williams headed home a late fourth.
Moyes has his work cut out to kick-start the Hammers’ campaign, with Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal their next three opponents.
Both teams went into the game in need of a win but it was Everton who struck the first blow, going ahead after 17 minutes.
Calvert-Lewin was sent clean through on goal but was brought down by Hart with referee Michael Oliver pointing straight to the spot.
Up stepped Rooney and, although a diving Hart managed to parry his kick, the ball rebounded kindly for the striker to head into an unguarded net.
Everton then doubled their lead after some poor defending from the visitors which will have frustrated Moyes.
Tom Davies was allowed to charge into the danger area unmarked before sending in a cross which managed to get all the way to Rooney, alone in the middle of the box, and he swept past Hart.
Moyes made a change at the break sending on Diafra Sakho for Pedro Obiang and West Ham were initially much-improved and went close to pulling a goal back.
Lanzini cut in from the left and stung Pickford’s palms with a decent effort before Aaron Cresswell unleashed a fierce shot which beat the Everton goalkeeper but just clipped the crossbar.
West Ham continued to press and with almost an hour gone, were handed a lifeline after Williams chopped down Sakho in the area.
Lanzini took the spot-kick and fired low to Pickford’s right but the goalkeeper made a fabulous save to push the ball clear and preserve his side’s two-goal lead.
Rooney then made West Ham pay with a brilliant third goal to seal his hat-trick. A clearance from Hart fell to the skipper just inside his own half and he met the ball first time, drilling it over the goalkeeper and in.
There was still time for more drama, Williams heading a corner past Hart to seal a fine outing for the Toffees and a much-needed three points.
KEY OPTA STATS
– Wayne Rooney’s hat-trick tonight came 2272 days since his last (10th September 2011) – the longest gap between two hat-tricks by a player in Premier League history.
– Rooney’s hat-trick goal was from 58 yards out – the furthest out that a Premier League goal has been scored since April 4th 2015 (Charlie Adam for Stoke at Chelsea).
– Wayne Rooney has now scored 14 Premier League goals against West Ham United; more than any other player.
– Wayne Rooney has scored more goals in his 12 Premier League games for Everton this season (7) than he did in his 25 league appearances for Manchester United last season.
– Wayne Rooney has now missed nine penalties in the Premier League; only Teddy Sheringham (10) & Alan Shearer (11) have missed more.
– This was the first Premier League game to see both sides miss a penalty since October 18th 2014 (Manchester City v Tottenham).
Sam Allardyce will finalise terms on a deal to become Everton manager on Wednesday, the Premier League club have confirmed.
The Toffees sacked Ronald Koeman on October 23, with the Dutchman presiding over a woeful start to the season that saw them claim just two wins in their first nine Premier League matches.
Fortunes have not improved under caretaker boss David Unsworth, who will oversee the last of a eight-game spell in charge against Everton at Goodison Park on Wednesday.
The club are 17th in the Premier League – a place above West Ham – and have lost five times under Unsworth, with a 4-1 defeat at Southampton on Sunday coming on the back of a 5-1 Europa League thrashing at home to Atalanta.
Allardyce had previously been linked with the job at Goodison Park, but ruled himself out of the running earlier this month after suggesting an agreement could not be reached.
However, the former England boss is now reported to have agreed an 18-month deal on Merseyside.
“Sam Allardyce will be at USM Finch Farm [Everton’s training ground] this afternoon to finalise terms on becoming the new manager of Everton Football Club,” the club tweeted.
“David Unsworth will remain in charge of the Blues for tonight’s Premier League match against West Ham United at Goodison Park.”
Watford boss Marco Silva emerged as Everton’s top target in the aftermath of Allardyce’s initial rebuttle, while Burnley’s Sean Dyche and Shakhtar Donetsk head coach Paulo Fonseca were also linked.
However, the Hornets played hardball over Silva, while the Dyche rumours failed to come to fruition and Everton struggled with Unsworth at the helm – his only win so far coincidentally coming courtesy of a 3-2 comeback triumph over Watford.
After leaving Palace, the 63-year-old Allardyce stated that he would only consider an international job, but the Everton post has proved too good to turn down.
Allardyce lasted just one match in the England job in 2016 after comments he made in a newspaper sting led to his resignation.
Managerless Everton’s away-day woes continued as Southampton secured a deserved 4-1 Premier League victory at St Mary’s Stadium despite Gylfi Sigurdsson’s stunner.
David Unsworth’s caretaker spell in charge of the Toffees sunk to a new low in Thursday’s 5-1 Europa League drubbing at the hands of Atalanta and Sunday’s result means they have now gone 15 top-flight matches without a win on the road.
Dusan Tadic toe-poked the Saints into an early lead following excellent build-up play, capping a dominant start for the hosts, whose manager Mauricio Pellegrino has himself been under intense scrutiny.
An injury for the experienced Leighton Baines added to Everton’s troubles, but the visiting fans were celebrating before half-time courtesy of Sigurdsson’s superb leveller – his first league goal for the club – which hit the woodwork three times.
However, it took only seven minutes of the second half for Southampton to restore their advantage, with Charlie Austin neatly heading in Ryan Bertrand’s pinpoint cross via the underside of the crossbar.
Austin doubled his tally with another header, this time Tadic providing the service, and Steven Davis finished the job to leave Everton hovering perilously above the bottom three and in desperate need of fresh ideas.
James Ward-Prowse’s free-kick caused a brief moment of panic in the Everton area as the ball deflected off Phil Jagielka before Jordan Pickford gathered.
Another Ward-Prowse delivery again caught Everton napping as his corner fell for Austin, who skied his effort well over the bar from eight yards out.
The hosts continued to make the early running and Austin struck the right-hand upright after connecting with Cedric Soares’ cross from the right.
Everton could have broken the deadlock entirely against the run of play when Idrissa Gueye forced the Saints to concede possession deep in their own half, with Kevin Mirallas pouncing before racing through on goal, but Fraser Forster was alert to the danger.
The breakthrough came immediately at the other end as Pellegrino’s men countered in style, Tadic racing onto Bertrand’s pass to prod past Pickford.
Things got worse for the visitors when stalwart Baines was forced off injured, with Ashley Williams brought on in his place.
But just when they needed inspiration, Sigurdsson delivered in spectacular fashion as he cut back onto his right foot and fired off a looping 20-yard shot that hit the crossbar, the post and then the bar again before crossing the line.
Southampton’s response came swiftly after the interval, with Bertrand whipping in a delivery and Austin glancing home expertly at the near post, with the bar again grazed.
Austin was at it again before the hour mark, rising to nod in and leave Everton fearing another thrashing.
If any of the numerous candidates to take the Goodison Park helm were watching, they might well have started to think of better ways to spend the festive season than being thrust into the depths of a relegation battle.
After substitute Shane Long was denied by Pickford, Davis added late gloss with a fine finish from outside the box as Southampton ended a three-match winless streak in style to heap misery on the Merseysiders.
Tom Cleverley missed a 101st-minute penalty after Everton sensationally rallied from two goals down to end their horror form with a rollercoaster 3-2 win over Watford at Goodison Park on Sunday.
Trailing 2-0 to a pair of second-half goals, Everton battled from behind and dramatically piled on three match-turning goals to move out of the relegation zone with a first victory in five Premier League matches.
Their incredible fightback almost took a heartbreaking twist when Watford were awarded a spot-kick in the 11th added minute, injuries to Heurelho Gomes and Christian Kabasele causing lengthy stoppages, but former Toffee Cleverley drilled his spot-kick wide as the hosts escaped with a potentially season-turning triumph.
Amid reports Sean Dyche is set to take over, Everton looked destined for defeat as they trailed by two goals until the 67th minute. Richarlison made up for a first-half miss by opening the scoring less than a minute into the second half, before Kabasele – who was later taken off on a stretcher – headed the visitors further ahead.
Oumar Niasse provided the Toffees a lifeline by punishing a Watford lapse at the back and substitute Dominic Calvert-Lewin made it two in seven minutes when he nodded in from a corner, setting up a tense finale.
Few would have predicted what followed. Everton were rewarded for their endeavour as Leighton Baines dispatched a penalty in the 91st minute, before Cleverley’s miss at the other end gifted David Unsworth a memorable first win in what could be his final match as caretaker manager.
Teenage midfielder Beni Baningime, in his first Premier League start, and a fit-again Michael Keane made important interceptions to see off an early spell of Watford pressure and set the platform for the game’s first chance – Baines hitting a meek finish straight at Gomes.
Richarlison also wasted a chance for the opener when he hit the side-netting after rounding Jordan Pickford, although the Brazilian made no mistake when presented with a similar chance just 30 seconds after the interval, firing in at close-range after Andre Gray’s smart pass unlocked a scrambled Everton defence.
The hosts should have drawn level less than 10 minutes later when Niasse teed up for Gylfi Sigurdsson for a seemingly certain goal, but Gomes stuck out a hand to divert his effort.
The goalkeeper’s heroics came to a premature end as Niasse’s knee inadvertently collided with his head and forced Marco Silva to turn to back-up goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis.
Watford were jubilant again when Kabasele headed in Jose Holebas’ corner to extend the margin just after the hour, although their two-goal buffer lasted only three minutes.
Niasse stole in between Holebas and the onrushing Karnezis and did enough to force the ball into an empty net.
And the Toffees’ comeback took on new life through Calvert-Lewin, who replaced Wayne Rooney and nodded in a corner at the far post for his side’s second.
Watford’s disappointment was compounded when Kabasele was forced off following a collision with Pickford, and Silva’s anguish only grew in added time.
Holebas tripped substitute Aaron Lennon inside the area, enabling Baines to atone for his first half miss with a cool penalty into the bottom left corner which appeared to have put the seal on a breathless come-from-behind victory.
Unsworth’s side did escape with three much-needed points as Cleverley failed to match Baines’ calm, firing wide of the left upright in the 11th minute of stoppage time after Pickford’s foul on Richarlison sent the midfielder to the spot.
Key Opta stats:
– Everton came from two goals down to win at home in the Premier League for only the second time ever and for the first time since May 1994 v Wimbledon (3-2).
– Richarlison has been directly involved in six goals in the Premier League this season (4 goals, 2 assists), more than any other Watford player.
– Oumar Niasse has netted four goals in his four Premier League appearances at Goodison Park for Everton this season.
– Dominic Calvert-Lewin has had a hand in more goals in all comps this term than any other Everton player (5 goals, 2 assists).
– Leighton Baines scored and assisted in the same Premier League game for only the third time ever and for the first time since November 2011 (v Wolves).