The mighty toffee’s return to action on Monday night for a tasty looking fixture against the very watchable Newcastle United in the first ‘mini league’ game of the season against a side like us looking to challenge for 4th spot.
The Geordies are looking in very good shape these days. Granted, Alan Pardew may look like a disgraced Geography teacher, but you couldn’t deny he has done a first class job since taking over the Tyneside hot seat. He has provided steady, incremental evolution in the last 18 months, aided by FSG’s generous £35m donation and combined with some astute scouting/trading (with the exception of Dan Gosling). Its this continuity with gradual change which makes them a more credible threat to ourselves than Spurs – whose personnel is in a constant state of flux – in the chase for 4th spot. Arsenal would have to be regarded as favourites but given their own on field transition its certainly not a given.
Both meetings last season provided goals and drama. In a closely contested tussle at St James the home side shaded a 2-1 win whilst at Goodison the 3-1 scoreline didn’t really reflect our own dominance. The key differential in recent games has been set pieces with the Blues scoring in each of the 3 meetings since Pardew took over from a dead ball cross / header combination. In the most recent meeting we carved out 6 goalscoring chances to Newcastle’s 0 from set pieces so expect Pienaar and Jelavic to be on the lookout for cheap fouls on the edge of Newcastle’s 18 yard box.
In last season’s fixture James Perch was deployed at right back however he and fellow fullback Santon both struggled badly before being hooked at half time. Our territorial dominance equated to the Blues making 95 final third passes compared to Newcastle’s 61. For the most part Newcastle sat deep and looked to counter; luckily for us the clearly ace Ben Arfa had a bay day at the office whilst play maker Cabaye was otherwise distracted.
Newcastle have problems at the back with Tim Krul out after cutting short his international break due to injury. Perennial bridesmaid Steve Harper will step in. Coloccini is also definitely out as is first choice right back and tattoo enthusiast Danny Simpson. New signing from Ajax Anita will most likely be tasked with policing the marauding Bainaar axis from right back whilst James Perch will deputise in the centre of a makeshift defensive unit.
Tiote is rated as doubtful so in experienced ex Coventry defensive midfielder Bigirimana could step in to play alongside Cabaye in a 4-4-2. Pardew tinkered with a 4-3-3 last season with Ben Arfa further forward with Ba/Cisse and Gutierrez tucking inside to form a midfield 3. This lack of width would certainly be appreciated by Baines.
Up top, Cisse is a colossal threat and will look to play on the shoulder of Distin – he’s been caught offside more than any player in the top flight so far – so don’t expect us to play too high a line.
Whilst Anita will be better equipped to deal with the rapid interplay of Pienaar/Baines on the floor, he is the shortest man in the visitors squad at just 168cm. Its more than likely Moyes will instruct diagonals to be dropped in and around him for Fellaini (194cm) to attack. For this reason its unlikely Fellaini will drop deep to cover Gibson’s injury. More likely is Neville coming into midfield and Hibbert slotting into right back. The only potential tinker would be Mirallas for Naismith given that – whilst promising – the Scot has been largely peripheral in his 2 starts, both of which he was subbed off.
History would point to a toffee win in this fixture; Moyes has only ever lost one game to North East opposition at Goodison in ten years whilst the Geordies have lost 12 of their last 14 visits to Merseyside.
As noted above set pieces will be our most likely route to goal especially with key defender Coloccini not available. At the other end we’ve only conceded 4 league goals at Goodison all year so the win without conceding market is always a fertile one for games at the old lady.
In terms of trends, in the last 4 meetings the side leading at half time has gone on to win. In the goal markets, Jelavic and Cisse will dominate the first goalscorer selections so for value you could look at the fact that last season we scored an own goal in each game with Pienaar’s goal at Goodison also deflected. In terms of actual goals, both teams have scored in each of the 3 games since Pardew took over with all 3 games over 2.5 goals.
Everton are 5/6 with coral with the draw best priced by Pinnacle at 54/19. Newcastle fans will see 17/4 as great value from Boylesports considering they picked up great awayday results at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge last season.
5 to ponder;
15/8 Everton to score only (bet365)
14/1 Baines first assist (boylesports)
17/2 Ben Arfa anytime /Newcastle win double (Willie Hills)
19/5 Fellaini anytime/ efc win double (Willie Hills)
8/1 Anytime own goal (Willie Hills)
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New on EB Today: Darron Gibson Awayday Blue – Read it here