Everton v Newcastle: High-flying Magpies look a great bet

Given the sides' contrasting form, Andy Schooler is baffled to see Newcastle as the underdogs for Thursday's Premier League game at Everton.

Oh, how Everton must have wished this game could have taken place on its scheduled date of December 30.

Newcastle had one win at the time and went into 2022 eight points behind the Toffees.

Having won six and drawn two of their nine matches since, the Magpies instead arrive at the rearranged date nine points ahead and they look all but safe.

Across the same period, Everton have won one of nine, losing the other eight.

Quite how Newcastle can be the 3.25 outsiders to win this game is therefore a mystery to me.

Wolves went into Sunday's game at Goodison at an even bigger price but didn't have to do much to win 1-0.

What has to be the worst Everton side since at least the 90s is struggling for goals (they've gone 372 minutes without one), are short of creativity in midfield where they've often been overrun due to lack of numbers and always look vulnerable defensively.

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The backline, which has switched between a four and a five, is missing quality both centrally and in the wide areas - the latter showing the problems the club has higher up the command chain given two full-backs were signed for decent money in January yet clearly neither is fully trusted yet.

Admittedly losing last season's top scorer, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, for the majority of the campaign so far has not helped but even the man they desperately need to step up to the plate spent some of his preparation for this game in court admitting a speeding charge.

The feeling of despair on the blue half of Merseyside is real.

Confidence looks rock-bottom - no wonder given it's now just nine points won from the last 60 available. That's relegation form no matter how you look at it and a first season in the second tier since the 1950s looks very possible right now.

Frankly, Newcastle look great value.

OK, they did lose for the first time in the league this year at the weekend but their manner of defeat at Chelsea hardly suggested a drastic loss of form.

They were beaten 1-0 by a late goal from a player who could easily have been sent off earlier in the game, while they were also denied what looked a clear-cut penalty.

Eddie Howe's side has even been able to cope with losing important players - Allan Saint-Maximin and Joelinton have both missed games of late.

Given they were clearly the better side when these two teams met on Tyneside only last month, recovering from a goal down to win 3-1, there really is no reason to shy away from backing them.

In terms of the goal markets, my inclination would be for this one to feature under 2.5 goals (a 1.92 shot) despite Everton's stats showing more than half their games have seen over that line.

Newcastle have improved defensively following the arrival of Dan Burn and Matt Targett and I can see them frustrating the goal-shy hosts as they did for most of the game at St James' Park.

That reverse fixture remains the only time Newcastle have scored more than twice in a game since November so a 1-0 or 2-0 success could well occur - those correct scores are at 12.0 and 18.5 by the way.

Perhaps it's worth taking a chance on Burn in the anytime goalscorer market.

He's already scored at Goodison in 2022 - heading home from a corner in one of his last games for Brighton - and has been a continued threat from set-plays since moving north.

Everton's struggles in dealing with balls into their box stretch back further than this season's worrying malaise and so the giant centre-back may be worth an interest at 13/1.

Another props play worth considering is backing in-form winger Ryan Fraser for an assist.

Having been left out for defensive reasons at Stamford Bridge, I'd expect the Scot to return to the starting XI here and his recent performances suggest he's more than capable of troubling the hosts.

Seamus Coleman and Jonjoe Kenny have fallen well short of the standards required this season, so much so that many fans want the untried January arrival Nathan Patterson to start. Maybe they've forgotten the youngster couldn't get into Rangers' first XI.

Fraser has managed assists in two of his last three starts and has a good record against the Toffees. His goal in last month's game was his fourth in eight appearances against them, while he also has one assist.

Sadly, Fraser's assist odds have shortened up in relation to his form and he's into 5/2. Perhaps given that history against the Toffees, 9/2 for a goal should be considered instead.

That said, the away win looks an obvious bet and one I'll happily put the night's bank on.

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