Everton take on Brighton at Goodison Park on Saturday as both sides look to rebound following FA Cup disappointment....
Everton v Brighton Saturday January 11, 15:00
Improving Toffees look to return to winning ways
Despite back-to-back defeats, 2-1 away to Manchester City in the Premier League, and far more embarrassingly, 1-0 in the FA Cup to Liverpool's second string, it's been a decent month or so for the Toffees.
Under the temporary stewardship of club legend Duncan Ferguson they beat Chelsea 3-1 at Goodison Park before drawing away at Manchester United, at home with Leicester in the Carabao Cup (lost on penalties) and 0-0 at home against Arsenal. Carlo Ancelotti then took over on a permanent basis and they won their first two games under the experienced Italian - 1-0 at home to Burnley and 2-1 away at Newcastle. December was a good month and the Toffees are up to 11th in the league.
The big question now is how are they going to react to last weekend's humiliating defeat to their bitter rivals? Everton dominated the first half at Anfield but yet again, finding the back of the net was the issue. Creating chances hasn't been a problem for the Toffees of late but converting them has. Since Ancelotti took over on Boxing Day, Everton have had more shots than any other team in the Premier League (50) but they've scored just four times.
On the plus side, they don't concede many at Goodison Park. Everton have kept nine clean sheets in their last 15 at home in the Premier League, including their last two matches.
Seagulls seeking sorry away form improvement
Brighton travel to Merseyside after a disappointing FA Cup loss of their own. Having reached the semi-finals last season, before losing 1-0 to eventual winners, Manchester City, the Seagulls have failed to progress out of the third round this season, following a 1-0 defeat at home to Championship side, Sheffield Wednesday.
Brighton boss Graham Potter made seven changes to the team that had begun the 1-1 draw against Chelsea on New Year's Day, so although he'd said they wanted to win, it does make me wonder whether Premier League survival was prioritised over another cup run?
The Seagulls' league form suffered badly at the end of last season and having failed to win any of their last nine Premier League matches, they narrowly avoided relegation by just two points. Just 24 hours after losing their final game of the season, 4-1 at home to Manchester City, Chris Hughton was promptly sacked.
The market didn't have an awful lot of faith in the new manager and Brighton were heavily backed for relegation before the season began, hitting a low of 2.72, but Brighton are having a reasonable season to date, they sit in 14th place and they're currently trading at a double-figure price for the drop.
Although they appear reasonably safe, the Seagulls have only actually won two of their last 11 Premier League matches - away at a floundering Arsenal, just before they sacked Unai Emery, and at home to a plummeting Bournemouth just after Christmas. They're form is nothing to write home about and since beating Watford 3-0 at Vicarage Road on the opening day of the season, the victory at Arsenal is their sole success on the road.
Brighton have lost five of their last seven Premier League away games and since the start of the 2017/18 season, they've lost more top-flight away games than any other club in the division (30).
Stats point to low scoring affair
Over 2.5 Goals is odds-on in the Over/Under 2.5 Goals market but the two sides have averaged three or more goals a game only 48% of the time this season. It's very hard to predict which way Saturday's game is going to go though. There have been under 2.5 goals in five of Everton's last six home games but over 2.5 in five of Brighton's last six on the road so something's got to give.
Both Teams to Score is trading at around1.80 and that makes sense given both sides have found the net in 57% of Everton matches and 52% of Brighton games. That percentage dips to 40% for Everton home games but rises to 60% for Brighton away matches so again, it's a bit of a confusing picture.
I'm not getting involved in either market but the odds-against for Under 2.5 Goals and for No in the BTTS market looks reasonable given Everton's record at home this season. As is the case for Under 2.5 Goals, both teams have scored in only 40% of matches at Goodison Park this season.
Toffees value to win after a tight first half
Everton are odds-on in the outright market and so they should be. After their tame effort against Liverpool's kids last weekend, this feels like a huge game for Ancelotti and he's going to be demanding an immediate response.
The Toffees are a tough team to beat at home and since they lost 3-1 to Manchester City back in September, Norwich are the only team to leave Goodison Park with all three points. That surprise defeat to the Canaries is their only loss in eight home games in all competitions and given Brighton have never won at Goodison, it's very hard to fancy the visitors. They make no appeal at less than 7/2 and the draw at 3.85 looks a better price but I fancy the home side to edge it, although the value lies in the Half Time/Full Time market.
So far this season, Everton have played ten times at home and Brighton ten times away. The Toffees have been drawing at half time at home five times and the Seagulls five times away. Rather than take the odds-on about Everton in the outright market, given the stats suggest there's a 50% chance that the two teams will be tied at the break, I'm happy to have a small investment in Draw/Everton at in excess of 4/1.