West Ham v Everton: Toffees' hopes to suffer Hammer blow
Expect former boss David Moyes and his West Ham team to add to Everton's relegation worries on Sunday, says Andy Schooler...
It's not that long ago that many Everton fans said David Moyes had taken their club as far as he could and that then-owner Bill Kenwright needed to sell up to someone with greater cash reserves.
Well, after five top-six finishes in 11 seasons, Moyes did leave and the Toffees have finished in the top six just once since (the season after he left, which says much).
And Kenwright did sell most of his stake to Farhad Moshiri who duly invested but, six years on, the Iranian stands as a shining example of how throwing money at a problem does not, on its own, solve it. Has any football club ever spent so much money for such little return?
Everton's problems are deep-rooted but in the here and now it's all about the next 11 games and securing their Premier League status.
The first of those pits them against old boss Moyes, whose West Ham are reminiscent of Everton a decade ago, arguably punching above their weight under the auspices of a manager capable of getting performances out of his players on a regular basis.
The Hammers head into this contest in seventh place having admittedly stuttered in their top-four chase - it's just three wins in their last nine league games, although all three of those have come at the London Stadium where they've won eight of 15 overall this season.
They still have a chance of securing that top-four finish but the Europa League is beginning to look a better chance of securing Champions League football this season. West Ham face Lyon in that competition on Thursday, although the looming quarter-final seems unlikely to influence Moyes' selection much here.
One notable decision may be to leave Jarrod Bowen out. It's doubtful whether he'll be fit enough any way but with such a big game lying ahead, you'd imagine Moyes won't take the risk with his star man. Vladimir Coufal is in a similar boat.
Meanwhile, the Hammers' chief will hope Michail Antonio's decision not to play for Jamaica during the recent international window will see him regain the spark which made him such a tough customer earlier in the season.
Everton's travel sickness
Everton will draw some comfort from their hosts' poor record against sides in the bottom half of the table - they've won just two of eight against the current bottom 10, losing here against both Leeds and Brentford, the sides who sit immediately above the Toffees at present.
There's also the fact that away trips to West Ham have proved very fruitful in the past - they've won in east London 12 times in the PL era, more than they have at any other team.
Still, that's probably clutching at straws.
Everton's away form this season has been dire - six points on the road being the lowest tally in the top flight.
Since Frank Lampard arrived, they've conceded 14 times in four away games, a figure which includes their most recent outing, a 4-0 FA Cup loss at Crystal Palace.
Yerry Mina has been sorely missed and they've been defensively terrible, particularly vulnerable from set-plays - a long-term issue that Lampard has been unable to resolve at all so far.
They've conceded the first goal way too often this term - 19 times in 27 games - and in recent times there's been little in the way of fight when they have fallen behind; you have to go back to December to find the last example of them winning a point from a losing position.
The recent Palace defeat was a cracking example of their frailty. Everton actually started well that day but failed to take their early chances and then fell behind, conceding from a corner. As soon as that happened, they looked bereft of confidence and every inch a team heading towards the Championship.
A season-ending injury to Andros Townsend when they were on top certainly didn't help. Donny van de Beek may well replace him for this one but Allan remains suspended. Up front, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who scored the winner in this fixture last season, surely has to start.
Hosts look the bet
Still, regardless of who makes the Everton XI, it's hard to look beyond the hosts and I'm surprised they aren't shorter than 1.83 to win.
As the table shows, they are a considerably better side than Everton and while they may not have been at their best in the league of late, they still possess a strong home record and recently beat Sevilla on this ground.
For those looking for a bigger price, there are other angles to consider.
West Ham HT/FT is at 3.2 which, given Everton's record of conceding first and being unable to respond, looks tempting. The fact they've only scored eight first-half goals adds weight to the argument.
The hosts to score in both halves at 9/5 also looks decent given Everton's defensive woes. They've conceded in both halves in six of their last 10 in all competitions.
However, for my long shot I'll again try to pick at the open wound which is the Blues' defending of set plays.
Craig Dawson and Tomas Soucek will both provide serious aerial threat from corners and free kicks and without Mina it's not hard to see the visitors struggling to cope.
Both to score a header is a whopping 80/1 which may be worth a few beans but more likely is Dawson to score at 13/2.
He's bagged two goals in his last six games and has regularly managed to get shots/headers at goal this season.
Marc Guehi, Conor Coady and Dan Burn have all headed past Jordan Pickford in 2022 - Dawson can add his name to that list of centre-backs.
Everton have lost just one of their past 13 Premier League away games against West Ham (W8 D4), going down 3-1 in May 2018. Indeed, the Toffees have won more Premier League away games against the Hammers than they have at any other side (12).
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