After what has felt like an interminable international break, one dominated from the Everton perspective by Romelu Lukaku and the very public expression of his Champions League ambitions, the Toffees are back in action with a trip to Manchester United tomorrow.
It's a fixture that has, historically in the Premier League era, been a routinely painful one but, with Everton boasting their strongest squad in a generation and United struggling post-Ferguson to match the feats of their long-serving manager, this should have been a game between two sides battling for a place in the top four.
Instead, the Blues are floundering once more in the wrong half of the table and the Red Devils, despite looking entirely unconvincing for most of the campaign, are still in the hunt for Champions League qualification and can move back onto the shoulders of neighbours Manchester City with a win this weekend. For Roberto Martinez, with 10th place six points away, a victory would be huge if he is to avoid a second successive bottom-half finish.
That Old Trafford history coupled with Everton's record against the teams above them this season means that Evertonians won't be travelling along the M62 with unbridled confidence. Chelsea's ascent into the top half of the Premier League has inflated by one the number of teams that Martinez's side have beaten this season but, like their general under-performance this season, the Blues' record against the division's top teams has been pretty dismal so far.
Just four wins against the teams above them paints its own picture for Everton; any improvement on that score over the final nine games would be too little, too late but it would at least provide some consolation for the manager as he seeks to relieve some of the pressure on his shoulders and prepare for the FA Cup semi-final — possibly against Louis van Gaal's men — in three weeks' time.
Martinez's shift in rhetoric following the horror show against Arsenal last time out where he hinted that players could be playing for their futures over the rest of the campaign suggests that he could make changes for this one. Poor defensive showings in the three home defeats to West Brom, West Ham and the Gunners make centre half an obvious starting point and given the Catalan has been trying to shoe-horn John Stones back into the defence since he recovered from injury, it would not be surprising to see him start. Whether that's in a back three or at the expense of one of Phil Jagielka or Ramiro Funes Mori remains to be seen but you'd imagine it wouldn't be the skipper who makes way.
In midfield, Gareth Barry is suspended but Muhamed Besic's personal struggles in the last game may give Martinez pause over selecting the Bosnian from the start even though he has since had the opportunity to work that personal nadir out of his system with two full games for his country. Tom Cleverley would be a natural alternative but that would leave a hole in left midfield, one that the manager prefers to fill with a more defensively-minded player against the presumed better teams.
Kevin Mirallas is fit again but may have irrevocably blotted his copy book with his sending off against West Ham, Oumar Niasse doesn't look ready to start, and Martinez hasn't shown much appetite for playing Gerard Deulofeu on the opposite flank — or two wingers, for that matter. Bryan Oviedo, the hero of this fixture two seasons ago, could be an option pushed forward into midfield from left back, however. Steven Pienaar played in the recent behind-closed-doors friendly against Östersund but his fitness status isn't clear while Leon Osman is another option.
Whomever Martinez selects, his team will face a stern challenge against a United team that, their Europa League failings aside, have been showing signs of finding some rhythm on their own turf in recent weeks following mounting criticism over their mind-numbing football. Since losing at home to Southampton in January, they've have won all three of their League games and prevailed in the Manchester derby last time out to keep their hopes of sneaking into the top four alive.
Again, with the all-important cup semi-final in mind and the question marks over Martinez's ability to take this team forward, this is fixture is about more than just playing for pride and the boost in Premier League merit payments that can be clawed back with every place higher Everton this season.
With eyes on the future, every performance will likely be scrutinized between now and May so both players and manager have plenty to prove and much still to play for, even in what has become a fruitless league campaign.
Referee: Andre Marriner
Predicted line-up: Robles, Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Baines, McCarthy, Cleverley, Oviedo, Lennon, Barkley, Lukaku
Full coverage: ToffeeWeb match page
Reader Comments (68)
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1 Posted 02/04/2016 at 19:14:49
I get the feeling our solid away record will come under scrutiny tomorrow, the way we generally play at places like Old Trafford is usually with a nervous defensive trepidation and uncertainty even at the best of times.
I know we have only lost the one away game this season but we haven't really won anywhere of any real note, we have been to Arsenal, Spurs, Man City, Chelsea and it's been a bit predictable that Everton don't win at places like this usually, the Oviedo winner in 2013 being real exception to the rule.
We need to show up tomorrow though because a quick glance at the league table will tell you we are now just a single solitary point ahead of 15th place Swansea.
Pretty disgraceful really.
2 Posted 02/04/2016 at 19:36:00
Spurs have two holders in Dier & Dembele who are a lot more expansive than our two. Aside from that, what impressed me was their fitness levels as the game was played at 100 miles an hour. Oh and I'd swap Lukaku for Kane in a heartbeat, his first touch is sublime.
Onto Liverpool, apart from the little genius Courtinho they look a very ordinary side. Like Lyndon, I'm not expecting much from tomorrow, and I'd be happy with a spawny draw. We've struggled badly against the top 6 this season and haven't notched up a single win against the top 6, with only Man Utd & Leicester City left to play.
As we've got no fear of relegation, maybe Booby may realise that we've no chance of defending or keeping a clean sheet and go for it with Lennon & Deulofeu, or Mirallas, and putting Cleverley as a holder, but he will probably put the same team out that did so well against The Arse.
3 Posted 02/04/2016 at 19:38:29
4 Posted 02/04/2016 at 19:38:42
Surely it isn't that much of a change for a professional to make, especially with his form with Spain U21s.
Either that, or play Lennon down the left. I don't understand how most wingers can play both sides, but at Everton it's not possible to play down the other side of the pitch. FFS!
Deulofeu cutting in from the left would be deadly.Robles;
Coleman, Jagielka, Funes Mori, Baines;
Lennon, Barkley, Deulofeu;
Howard, Galloway, Oviedo, McCarthy, Besic, Mirallas, Niasse.
That would be my team for the day.
6 Posted 02/04/2016 at 19:47:03
7 Posted 02/04/2016 at 20:43:35
8 Posted 02/04/2016 at 20:57:37
I do however hope that Stones is restored and has a decent game. It is time for Bobby to Foxtrot Oscar and the spotlight of a Sunday kick-off and MotD2 scrutiny may serve to publicly highlight his consistent and recurring failures.
He will pick a cautious team. They will play sideways and backwards and Deulofeu will probably get 10 mins at the end when it's far too late. I have watched some rubbish (amongst brilliant times) over 5 decades but never before have been so dispirited.
I read the recent Echo article about Derek Temple and the 1966 FA Cup campaign and had tears rolling down my cheeks. I watched the YouTube video of the demolition of Sunderland in 1985 and sent it to my sons who were not then born. We will never have those days again but oh for something positive to restore the emotional attachment. Perhaps the next time I jump out of my seat and punch the air will be on the news of Martinez's departure.
Come on Leicester. Really rub in the pain for us and show how it can and should be done.
9 Posted 02/04/2016 at 21:16:51
So I expect to see us give a good account of ourselves; usually we are at our most dangerous when being written off. Let's face it, there has to be an improvement after that awful Arsenal performance.
10 Posted 02/04/2016 at 22:10:10
11 Posted 02/04/2016 at 22:13:31
It's been a very long two weeks. It's time for them to do the talking on the field.
Don't talk the talk, if you can't walk the walk.
12 Posted 02/04/2016 at 22:22:52
Your post echoes my own feelings about our situation. In my case, I have supported the Blues for over 65 years and have never felt as low as I do lately. Like you, I don't have the same enthusiasm or belief as in years gone by with this poor excuse for a manager and his nauseating comments. After every lousy result, he's still in the job.
I've just finished watching Liverpool v Spurs and earlier Gunners v Watford and both were classic typical English battles with fantastic football and 100% effort, a credit to the game. COYB
13 Posted 02/04/2016 at 22:24:16
Like Colin @(6) says, put Deulofeu in the No 10 spot, even if it is for the first half; his pace at least would give us more options. Maybe he will surprise us... then again, he most probably will be his boring predictable self.
14 Posted 02/04/2016 at 22:29:25
Talk about support your team!!
Things ain't that bad your mention of those good times (I share your many years experiences), at least we have memories and maybe more to come!! I bet you still moaned after the Sunderland game the pie wasn't warm enough maybe.
How many fans around the country would like to have shared those experiences?? We are better off than maybe at least 82 of the other professional clubs in this country...
How can you want us to get beat?! You should be ashamed of yourself.
15 Posted 02/04/2016 at 23:05:08
That Klopp shows that it is the MANAGER which is the most important position at a club. We have better players at Everton but Liverpool on that showing are a better team. Mr Moshiri, get us a Bundesliga manager for next season please!
16 Posted 02/04/2016 at 23:15:02
17 Posted 02/04/2016 at 23:26:18
I still have a sneaking suspicion we will win against this poor Man Utd team though.
18 Posted 02/04/2016 at 23:30:05
Width is going to be very important against this lot particularly to keep their wide players pinned back. I would therefore start with Lennon on the right and Oviedo on the left in front of Baines.
We all know Martinez won't go for that so Deulofeu it is then with Cleverley covering for Barry.
19 Posted 03/04/2016 at 00:06:06
With one eye on the semi-final, I'll be surprised if we match Man Utd's intensity tomorrow but hope to be proved wrong.
21 Posted 03/04/2016 at 03:45:06
23 Posted 03/04/2016 at 06:23:11
One point, though: I wouldn't drop Funes Mori for Stones. Jags maybe but not Funes Mori. Anyone who's bothered to watch the Argentina v Chile match will have seen how good he really is in a proper defence.
Against Man Utd's young guns like Martial and Rashford, we need young, faster legs and Jagielka, sadly doesn't have the pace any more. I'd be tempted to stick with the defence that has established itself in recent games. They only really came unstuck in two of those matches, again more due to lack of satisfactory defensive coaching.
Martinez really must go, sooner rather than later, before he totally destroys our wonderful club and takes us the same way as Wigan. I hate to say it, but it is becoming a standing joke among my friends when they see me coming and they start making jokes at Everton's expense. I never thought I'd see days like it, when people are actually laughing at us. Thanks a lot, Martinez!
24 Posted 03/04/2016 at 08:28:48
25 Posted 03/04/2016 at 09:09:51
There, if that doesn't trigger a famous Toffees victory, nothing will!
26 Posted 03/04/2016 at 09:39:35
I understand Neil's # 8 dejection and have also been suffering from what he describes as brain numbness, however as Phil W # 16 says, faith springs eternal.
I have just finished watching the John Stones interview on Episode 28 of Toffee TV. I haven't given up on us keeping this lad yet and I want to see him back in the team.
Mo Besic was on the same show answering the junior supporters questions. Another very impressive young man.
Listening to them both, particularly John Stones lifted my spirits so take heart chaps. There is still a lot to be proud of about Everton Football Club.
Given that there is not much to play for in the league perhaps now is the time for the manager to roll the dice and start all of our 6 young guns and see what they can do collectively.
This is the team I would like to see start at Old Trafford.
Jagielka, Stones, Funes Mori
Coleman, Barkley, Besic, Baines
Deulofeu, Lukaku, Lennon
I think Jay # 18 is correct about the need for width in this game, however if Deulofeu and Lennon are to occupy the wings then I would put Lennon on the left. My logic is that out of the two Lennon is the more able to go down the line or cut in on the left. Similarly Deulofeu's passing from deep inside the right wing is devasting when he is on blob.
I am a big fan of Ross Barkley but of all of that group of young players he is the one who most capable of lifting the performance of the team. He has to start leading the group by example. He is the life long Evertonian. If his team mates see him pressing the ball and pressing the space with the same energy that Wayne Rooney still does for United he will lift the whole team. Come on Ross.
I can hear the rustle of notes as Phil counts his winnings.
27 Posted 03/04/2016 at 09:48:56
28 Posted 03/04/2016 at 09:56:22
I think it's because a lot of us were going during the Catterick period, then through the Kendall days, so we can compare different teams, methods, tactics etc.
So when we see this shit being played every week we are on a downer.
The younger lads have only known times of famine and when they see the odd spell, and it is odd, of decent football they get overly excited.
This clown will have us out this league if we persist with him and every day he remains will be harder to take.
29 Posted 03/04/2016 at 10:05:19
30 Posted 03/04/2016 at 10:06:14
Thanks Uncle Jack, l have passed the family curse on to my sons & daughter and grandkids COYB
31 Posted 03/04/2016 at 10:39:20
I was thinking much the same. BBS really needs to shake things up a bit. So 3 at the back with the wing-backs pushed on, although I'd probably go for Oviedo. Barkley with McCarthy, Besic & Cleverley in midfield, with Barkley encouraged to really impose himself.
Lennon & Deulofeu given a bit of freedom to run wide, cut in & swap wings at will. It might be a disaster, but at least there's the potential to play some good football & ask questions of the opposition.
32 Posted 03/04/2016 at 10:40:16
33 Posted 03/04/2016 at 12:07:54
34 Posted 03/04/2016 at 12:16:17
35 Posted 03/04/2016 at 13:10:18
36 Posted 03/04/2016 at 13:24:04
Give it a rest will yez? You've seen far worst shite than this.
37 Posted 03/04/2016 at 13:32:50
Not selective memories at all.
The older guys can see the different eras and managers and look at the opposition during those times.
You and others are continually telling us we have this fantastic young squad built by Martinez who has had oodles of money to spend.
Bingham and Lee never had that. Lee was not far off challenging.
Smith inherited shit and really only got players who were on the downward stretch of their careers and on the cheap apart from drunken Duncan.
Not only have we seen shite especially now but we are also reading it.
38 Posted 03/04/2016 at 13:37:37
39 Posted 03/04/2016 at 13:39:11
As for the worst feeling in the blues history for those who are hurt. I take it some of you lot are going to Wembley this month!! two semifinals this season! Name another Everton manager that has achieved that within 3 years?
I also remember Coventry at home 0-0 in the '80s game finished and it rained down with cushions.They were the worst ever. But as you know by our history, Howard Kendall, turned it around. So come on and be supportive of the manager and the team.
40 Posted 03/04/2016 at 13:44:58
That's really the only difference between the current league leaders and ourselves, they have a team ethic and their 'star' players buy into that, whereas our so called 'star' players seem to play for themselves rather than each other and our 'lesser' players are asked to do the donkey work for those with the better skill-set.
It will be interesting to see how we play today, regardless of the result, will they be focussed as a team or will they continue to play as eleven individuals.
41 Posted 03/04/2016 at 13:46:37
I think 3/1 represents a decent bet if we can put our best foot forward.
42 Posted 03/04/2016 at 13:58:22
43 Posted 03/04/2016 at 14:00:11
44 Posted 03/04/2016 at 14:09:07
Oodles of money? Bingham and Lee never had that? I think the signings of players like Rioch, Mckenzie, Todd, Latchford etc....weren't exactly cheap at the time.
John, I have some great memories from watching Everton over the years but I also remember watching Everton on cold, wintery nights in front of a half-empty stadium where the boos always outnumbered the cheers. Some of the best moments were standing on Gwladys St and taking the Micky out of the opposing goalies as the football on show was usually dire.
45 Posted 03/04/2016 at 14:13:01
Spurs, no tippy-tappy crap. Second top.
46 Posted 03/04/2016 at 14:14:06
You mentioned every manager from Catterick onwards. You have NEVER seen two seasons of dire shit football with the odd good game thrown in... TWO seasons, Colin.
Also, I bet you anything you want you have never been in the pub before a match and talked about getting beat! Come out of the ground after home games and just accepted the crap just witnessed.
Not the odd game or two, Colin, TWO seasons.Yes we've all seen shit but not as continuous as this.
47 Posted 03/04/2016 at 14:16:47
48 Posted 03/04/2016 at 14:21:47
You are dead right, watching this Leicester game and it is with any shadow of a doubt that twat Martinez is single handedly destroying any pleasure I get from watching Everton.
It is heartbreaking.
49 Posted 03/04/2016 at 14:23:54
50 Posted 03/04/2016 at 14:24:03
John, don't get me wrong, I'm not defending Martinez (as far as I'm concerned he can go now) what I'm saying is that some people on here are conveniently forgetting some of the worst football ever seen at Goodison under different managers. And, btw, I've not included Howard Kendall Mk II and III, and poor old Colin Harvey.
51 Posted 03/04/2016 at 14:25:34
Under Bingham, 7th, 4th, 11th and 9th. I'd take any of those today, wouldn't you?
52 Posted 03/04/2016 at 14:25:51
54 Posted 03/04/2016 at 14:28:46
55 Posted 03/04/2016 at 14:30:10
56 Posted 03/04/2016 at 14:34:26
Ray got in before I could respond regarding Lee. Sorry, mate, the past 2 seasons don't lie position wise and playing wise.
This team can play half decent for 45 minutes but not 90 and I can't recall a team in the past I can say that about.
The football is anti-Everton. Even under Walker it never took 50 passes to get over the half-way line.
Maybe we do look at the past through rose tinted specs but over a two-year period this guy has to be in a class of his own.
58 Posted 03/04/2016 at 14:36:44
79-80 and 80-81... They were joyous
59 Posted 03/04/2016 at 14:40:27
Possession for possessions sake is meaningless but surely we can all remember Everton teams that couldn't string more than three passes together? I can.
60 Posted 03/04/2016 at 14:43:07
One doctor has said he has given steroids to footballers, including those in the top 4. His claim has not been corroborated and it doesn't mean any of their current players are doping now.
I don't for one second believe their squad is doping. Maybe 1 or 2 have done so to recover from injuries, but it would be wrong to taint their achievement by suggesting they're cheating.
61 Posted 03/04/2016 at 14:47:20
Everton, 2 weeks ago, against Arsenal.
62 Posted 03/04/2016 at 14:51:20
If this is proven to be true, and the FA are going to investigate apparently, then all three teams should face automatic relegation plus massive fines and points reductions.
I never wanted to believe in the Lance Armstrong accusations but after so much wrongdoing, enough is enough. If these allegations are true than all concerned need to get an absolute hammering.
64 Posted 03/04/2016 at 15:04:04
I also have over 55 years invested in the club and I think you flying solo on the absolutely dire shite under this clown.
The reason most of us think this is the worst manager is because he inherited a top six club with maturing excellent young players and has been backed to the hilt yet he has still managed to achieve some of the worst performances in history.
As for Leicester they are only talking about one player and the source is very suspect.
65 Posted 03/04/2016 at 15:06:37
66 Posted 03/04/2016 at 15:09:54
68 Posted 03/04/2016 at 15:13:53
Plus you've had the big drop off of form in Man City and Chelsea. They'll most probably win it with a low points total, so it's not that unbelievable.
71 Posted 03/04/2016 at 15:30:51
I know different people have different opinions, but I'm astonished that my 50/60 year-old peers have such selective memories.
72 Posted 03/04/2016 at 15:31:33
Jay, not defending this manager, just saying I've seen worse Everton managers and teams than this one.
73 Posted 03/04/2016 at 15:40:08
74 Posted 03/04/2016 at 15:45:00
75 Posted 03/04/2016 at 15:56:05
Memory and what means things to you, is individual but I think that what we are all saying (or most of us on this thread) is, not so much of our memories of the past but that we can't see much of an exciting future with Roberto as Manager.
Now that we are a club with a billionaire major shareholder. I'm hoping/expecting major changes, with the ground, with our marketing and retailing; but most imprtantly, On The Pitch.
I was a firm believer in Roberto and the Brand of Football he was trying to bring to Everton but I don't think he can make the full transformation.
What we see on the pitch today could swerve from the Chelsea Cup game, to the Arsenal league game, we'll not have long to find out whichg Everton will turn up.
I'd love to see Delly and Aaron on the wings and a Midfield that will snarl and fight and get right in the noses of the Mancs. I don't see it though.
Hope I'm wrong but lets just see the game (or listen for me) and chat after.
Come on Blues
76 Posted 03/04/2016 at 16:38:27
0-0 draw; zero attempts on goal; Crowd 12,000 ....yes, 12,000!
The same fixture in 1983 got better.... the crowd was 13,000 !!
Now THAT is hard times!
77 Posted 03/04/2016 at 18:18:36
"But I'm astonished that my 50-/60-year-old peers have such selective memories."
So why be selective yourself then, Chris? The rubbish we are witnessing now is as bad as the periods which you mention and which I also witnessed, although the Tansey era was just finishing as I was starting to attend the match in '59.
The difference is, today's team is full of current Internationals playing to a fraction of their potential and that is down to the managers tactics, fitness levels and formation. We will do nothing but flirt with relegation under this clown.
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