Premier League 17/18 Week 37: Everton vs Southampton – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
The Saints push again for survival when they take on an Everton side who are unflattering to deceive
17:30 BST, Saturday 5th May, Goodison Park (Liverpool, England) BT Sport
Speculation continues to shroud the future of Everton and Sam Allardyce despite an unbeaten run of 4 games that lies rounded off with back-to-back wins. It has been enough to move them up the table to the heady heights of 8th and another victory will guarantee them a finish in the top half of the table. With the natives restless for a more enterprising brand of football, Allardyce still has his work cut out to win them over.
Southampton have also been lacking fluidity this season but their fans will take any win given their current predicament needing to attain victory against Bournemouth last weekend, Southampton completed their target for only the 2nd time in 22 Premier League attempts and now sit only a single point below the endangered Swans. With three games still to play, there’s plenty of time to secure an escape, however, a win this weekend could put their destiny back into their own hands.
Last Time Out
Huddersfield Town 0-2 Everton (Premier League)
The Toffees ground out an impressive, if not entertaining, win against a stubborn Terriers team on their own patch. Huddersfield were fired into this game with the threat of relegation still hovering over them but Everton kept their calm and managed their way to superiority.
The midfield pairing of Idrissa Gueye and Morgan Schneiderlin was the platform with which victory was accomplished. They dominated the central area of the pitch and forced Huddersfield’s players into making errors in possession. It was one such turnover which Theo Walcott profited from in the 39th minute.
Gueye received his reward for a man-of-the-match match performance with a goal of his own in the 77th minute. Despite Everton only managing 7 shots on goal during the game, they put 5 of those on target as they showed a more efficient edge than their hosts. The game still finished with protests in the away end directed at Allardyce, however, more victories such as this will work to quell the anger which he’s facing.
Southampton 2-1 Bournemouth (Premier League)
The Saints late push for survival enjoyed a huge shot of hope as their impressive record against their South-coast neighbours remained untarnished. It was a nervy opening by the home side who looked like the pressure may swallow them whole. A quick counter-attack in the 25th minute saw them bear down in the Cherries goal with a 3-on-1 advantage and Dusan Tadic calmly slotted the ball away to give them a lead.
Weak defending has pock-marked Southampton’s season, and it again blighted them just before half-time, just as they were looking in command. With the Cherries buoyed during half-time, Southampton had to weather a small storm upon the restart. It was Tadic again who came to the Saints rescue, a low shot from outside of the penalty area sneaking into the corner of the net. The final half hour proved to be more attritional than celebratory but it was enough to see a valuable 3 points locked away in the home team’s locker.
Mason Holgate (ankle) Eliaquim Mangala (knee) James McCarthy (leg) and Gylfi Sigurdsson (knee) are joined in the physio room by Dominic Calvert-Lewin (back) although Allardyce could keep faith with the eleven players who started at Huddersfield last weekend.
Steven Davis is still suffering from an ankle injury but will be the only player missing from Mark Hughes selection process this weekend. There is likely to be few changes made to his starting lineup, although Nathan Redmond could find himself dropped after a quiet game against the Cherries.
Key Battle: Cenk Tosun (Everton) vs Alex McCarthy (Southampton)
For all the criticism falling Everton’s way regarding their lack of attacking impetus, Tosun can’t be singled out as a culprit. The Turkish striker has 5 goals to his name now and scored with his only shot during last weekend’s win over the Terriers. With a total accuracy from his time at Everton showing 47% of his shots being on target and an average of a goal every 2 games started for the Toffees, the lack of service he’s receiving does not appear to be holding him back too far as he adapts to life in English football.
If Tosun is to score again this weekend, he will need to beat a keeper who arguably made his most important display in a Southampton shirt last weekend. While Tadic received most of the praise following his brace, the Saints would not have won the game but for McCarthy’s heroics at the other end of the field. As well as commanding his box from the Cherries aerial attacks, he made 3 highly impressive saves for Southampton, none more vital than the 94th-minute reaction which somehow kept out a deflected shot to seal the Saints victory.
Substance over style
Sam Allardyce continues to divide opinion, the vast majority of which seems intent on seeing him removed from the Merseyside club. Luckily for Sam Allardyce, he continues to gain results and points which suggest he’s performing the fundamental parts of his job as required.
Having collected 14 points from a possible 21 during the Toffees last 7 matches, Everton have also shown an increase in productivity in the most important aspect of managing a team. While the manner of which his Everton side have achieved this continues to create a backlash against him, the simple facts show that the history books will look back upon his time as a success if he can maintain this impressive return.
The correct ingredients
Every season there seems to be at least one team able to dig their way out of the relegation zone during the season’s death throes. While the old adage of being “too good to go down” has often been exposed as an empty cliché, few have ever doubted the quality Southampton possess in their squad.
What they now have to add to this is a growing momentum and belief. Fuelled by a draw and a win, the Saints have grown in confidence that they can achieve their target. The passion they showed at the end of the match last weekend also shows exactly the type of mentality they will need to carry into their current games before they end their season in Manchester against a City side brimming with momentum.
Prediction: Everton 1-2 Southampton
Sam Allardyce has been able to point towards good home form as a way to quantify the Toffees recent improvements but the Saints will arrive on Merseyside with nothing less than victory on their minds. This could well end up being a scrappy yet entertaining game and it could prove further encouragement for the away side who can severely boost their hopes of escaping relegation with what would be their first away win in 6 games.
(Photo Credit: Reuters/Ed Sykes)