Everton vs Swansea City

, 21 March, 0comments  |  Jump to most recent
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Everton are back at Goodison Park this weekend to face the second of the two teams from South Wales as Swansea City come to town for the second time this season. It's the first of three matches in the space of eight days for the Blues as they look to keep their slim Champions League hopes alive by putting as many points on the board as possible.

Having despatched Cardiff with a very late goal last Saturday, Roberto Martinez's side will be hoping to engineer a third victory over the Swans and record back-to-back wins in the Premier League for the first time since December. Coincidentally, the victims on that occasion, exactly three months ago, were Swansea as Seamus Coleman and Ross Barkley conjured up a pair of stunning goals that had kept the Blues within two points of the top of the table.

Things have stretched out considerably in the top seven since, with Everton starting the weekend 9 points off fourth place but having played a game fewer than Manchester City, the current occupants of that last Champions League-qualifying spot. Realisitically, with Manchester United struggling for consistency and Tottenham Hotspur in a similiar situation, fifth place is probably as high as Martinez's men can finish this season and with it would come the Europa League, the extra revenue from a higher-placed finish than least season, and the consolatation of ending the campaign as "best of the rest."

It would certainly be an impressive achievement given the managerial transition last summer and some lengthy injury layoffs to key players, particularly since the last time these two clubs met in the League. Most of those concerns have cleared up but captain Phil Jagielka is still a doubt and Steven Pienaar, who missed last weekend's game, has been ruled out for a further two to three weeks with a knee complaint.

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With two away trips on the immediate horizon — to St James' Park on Tuesday and then Fulham the following Sunday — It's unlikely Jagielka will be risked this weekend. That would mean another start for John Stones alongside Sylvain Distin after another virtually error-free outing against Cardiff last time out.

Up front, Romelu Lukaku should start and with Gareth Barry and James McCarthy likely to pair up again in defensive midfield, Martinez will have the usual task of perming three from Kevin Mirallas, Gerard Deulofeu, Aiden McGeady, Leon Osman, Ross Barkley and Steven Naismith for the remaining spots.

Mirallas and Deulofeu started last weekend and the Spaniard scored the Blues' first which should be enough to earn him another place in the starting XI but it would not be surprising to see McGeady preferred to Mirallas on the left with Barkley and Osman deployed more centrally.

Swansea showed in the FA Cup tie here in February that, even with an under-strength team, they could cause Everton problems. They were one of the few teams to have kept the Blues close to 50-50 possession on the day and they were perhaps unfortunate to lose 3-1, having frustrated their hosts for long periods.

They haven't won a match in any competition since 8th February, though, and though they ran Liverpool very close at Anfield a month ago in a thrilling 4-3 defeat, they lost at home to fellow relegation battlers West Bromwich Albion, a result which leaves them just four points above the drop zone.

Given that form and the fact that, with the exception of the aberration against Sunderland on Boxing Day, Everton have won every home game since the Merseyside derby in November, this should represent an opportunity to comfortably book another three points.

As ever, the key will be fashioning enough clear-cut openings and sticking the ball in the back of the net. Martinez had ear-marked the final 10 games of the campaign as his team's time to shine; now they have to live up to their manager's promise.

Kick off: 3pm GMT
Referee: Michael Oliver

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