Everton vs Manchester United

, 18 April, 0comments  |  Jump to most recent
Match Preview

There's still just a point in it with four games left to play. It's important to remember that, even though the defeat to Crystal Palace took much of the wind out of Everton sails and handed the initiative in the chase for a place in the top four back to Arsenal.

Given the Gunners' comparatively easy run-in — not to mention the Toffees' penchant for falling at the last few hurdles — it's easy to feel that Everton's chances of making the Champions League have massively receded following the gut-wrenching events at Goodison Park on Wednesday evening. But football's capacity to surprise means that there could yet be plenty of twists and turns over the remainder of the campaign.

For Roberto Martinez and his Everton side, it's one game at a time and that means focusing entirely on the visit of Manchester United this weekend. David Moyes brings his new club to Goodison for the first time since he left for Old Trafford last May and that will ensure a tasty atmosphere regardless of the stakes for the Blues in terms of the top four. Even so, a positive result of any kind for Hull City against Arsenal in the 2pm kick-off and Evertonians will be ready to raise the roof even higher knowing that the Champions League is back on... again!

Arriving on Merseyside with one of the best away records in the Premier League and with the benefit of 10 days' rest, United will not be an easy proposition for Everton at all. The game calls for the same kind of approach as against Arsenal where Arsene Wenger's men were blown away by a combination of Martinez's tactical masterstroke, pure desire by the players and the raucous will of a packed home crowd.

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How the manager goes about breaking down a team that could, in true Moyes fashion, be more disciplined and defensively-minded than the Gunners were will be interesting to see. There will undoubtedly be changes to the attacking team that started against Palace, with Aiden McGeady and Gerard Deulofeu likely to drop back to the bench and Steven Naismith highly fancied to return to the team after his goalscoring exploits in midweek.

Indeed, with James McCarthy declared fit but Phil Jagielka still 50-50, it would not be a surprise to see the same starting XI play this weekend as the one that faced Arsenal a fortnight ago even if Martinez doesn't opt for the same formation for his three-pronged attack.

United, for their part, will likely have Wayne Rooney in their team after all. The ex-Everton forward looked destined to miss this match with a toe injury but the swelling has reportedly subsided and he looks set to play despite looking fatigued in the Red Devils' Champions League loss in Munich last time out.

Marouane Fellaini has also apparently shaken off a calf injury and he, too, could play on his first return to his old stomping ground since a 27.5m move to Old Trafford on transfer deadline day last September.

If there is anything to Martinez's admission on Wednesday that perhaps his players were feeling some of the pressure that came from the possibility of moving into pole position for fourth, resulting fan expectation and a seven-match winning streak, the defeat to Palace should have released a lot of it. That has now shifted back to Arsenal, more so because Everton kick off later on Sunday aftternoon.

The obvious hope is that the Blues can get back to their swashbuckling, free-flowing best with the return of a more familiar, balanced line-up and the impetus from a crowd with more than one reason to bring an intimidating noise to Goodison when Moyes brings his new charges into the field.

Just one point in it. Anything can still happen. Can't it, Mr Jelavic?

Kick off: 4.10pm
Referee: Mark Clattenburg

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