After getting the holiday portion of the fixture list off to a stuttering start, Everton have a chance to make amends on Wednesday to give the Goodison Park faithful a Christmas gift in the form of three much-needed points. The week has begun with all sorts of rumors regarding Atletico Madrid's reported interest in manager David Moyes, and Chelsea preparing a £20million bid for England midfielder Jack Rodwell.
The visitors for this game are Swansea City, the third of the three clubs promoted this season. Everton have been miserable so far against teams that have just come up from the Nationwide league, losing at home to Queens Park Rangers and salvaging a late point against Norwich City last Saturday. The Welsh club are currently in twelfth, one point and two spots ahead of the Toffees.
Last weekend Everton dominated possession, fell behind in spite of controlling the game, and failed to score more than once from a hatful of chances. This inability to convert is starting to look like a curse of Biblical proportions, and it might take divine intervention (or Louis Saha realigning his goal compass) to start scoring, especially at home - the last time Everton scored three at home was a full three months ago.
More of the same paucity might be seen this weekend, as Swansea play a resolute defensive style, which has earned them eight clean-sheets in sixteen games. That is quite an impressive statistic for a promoted club, when Everton themselves have failed to keep a clean-sheet at home this season. Coach Brendan Rodgers, who served as Chelsea youth and reserve team coach under Jose Mourinho, has installed a short-passing game akin to that played by the top Premiership clubs, and utilizes his speedy wingers to supply the strikers.
Swansea, like Norwich City, have struggled away from the Liberty Stadium, with only three points from their travels. Unfortunately Goodison Park seems to hold no demons for away teams this season. The Toffees will need to score early to ensure the Swans don't park their fleet of coaches in front of goal and try to hold out for a win/draw.
Royston Drenthe revitalized the team after his appearance as a substitute over the weekend, and should start. Jack Rodwell is still not fully fit and will miss this game. Seamus Coleman could feature in the game after being held out with a thigh injury. Center back Sylvain Distin is fully fit again, but has struggled to displace Johnny Heitinga from the starting XI. Striker Apostolos Vellios didn't even make the bench after earning Moyes' ire during training, but could return to the squad for the game.
Rodgers' doesn't have too many injuries to worry about, with only winger Nathan Dyer certain to miss out. Fullback Angel Rangel is fully recovered from his ankle injury and will be returning to the centre of the defence.
Keys To The Game
In Everton's case, it's actually quite simple - converting chances into goals has plagued the team all season, and the team is long overdue for a breakout. They have maintained possession for long periods against most teams they have played against, and can expect no less against Swansea either. It remains to be seen if Moyes is frustrated or desperate enough to attempt something different either in tactics or in personnel choices to try and change things.
The Toffees will look to throttle Swansea's passing game by cutting off the supply lines and winning the ball in midfield. It would not be a surprise if Moyes put Distin back in, and moved Heitinga up to replace a largely ineffective Phil Neville in the middle of the park, accompanying Marouane Fellaini. But will Moyes gamble and replace Tim Cahill with Leon Osman, and start Drenthe and Coleman on the wings?
- Everton have not lost to Swansea in thirteen games across all competitions, but only last met in 1983.
- Goodison Park has not been kind to the Toffees this year, four losses in eight games and no clean sheets.
- Swansea have been shut out in eight games to go with their eight clean sheets.
- The Swans have the worst away record in the Premiership, with three draws in eight games.