Last time we saw the Blues Manchester City was doling out a dose of realism to Evertonians. Everton did well to stay in the match, but were always second best and the result showed it.
Still, there is certainly no shame in losing at the Etihad Stadium, especially when missing two key starters, and the boys in blue will be happy to return home to Goodison Park to face the Tigers. In the next seven weeks, Everton will face the likes of Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester United, and Arsenal, so picking up three points here is crucial to keep the pace at the top of the table.
However, Hull City have proved to be no pushovers thus far. The newly promoted Tigers sit in eighth place with 11 points, just one point behind Everton. They have only scored six goals this season but at the other end have given up just seven, with former Manchester United prospect Robbie Brady picking up 3 of their goals.
The only clubs with fewer goals scored than Hull are the bottom five teams in the table, but with three clean sheets this campaign, they have still been able to get results. Admittedly, Hull's victories - two 1-0 wins at home against Norwich City and West Ham United and a 3-2 thriller at Newcastle - are not particularly eye-catching, but these are the kinds of victories that recently promoted teams need to avoid relegation.
Everton will be without Darron Gibson indefinitely, following his ACL rupture in Dublin on Tuesday. Steven Pienaar will be unavailable as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury. Antolin Alcaraz is getting closer, but is still unavailable as well.
Robbie Brady will face a late fitness test after a surprisingly speedy recovery from hernia surgery. Club captain Robert Koren and defender James Chester will both be unavailable due to injury.
Keys to the Match
For Everton, it will be important to put the Manchester City match behind them, and get back to having the better of position and controlling the game. The absence of Gibson and Pienaar means the midfield configuration is still up in the air, but it will certainly include Gareth Barry holding down the fort at the center of the pitch. He will need to find the right passes that help start breaking down a Hull City side that will surely come out looking to defend. Hull City's successes this season have come against teams that do not have the creative ability that the Toffees do, so if Romelu Lukaku, Leighton Baines, and Kevin Mirallas can play well, there is no reason to think Everton should not take three points.
For Hull, the first 25 minutes will be crucial. In their season opener at Chelsea, the Tigers conceded two goals in opening 25 minutes, and from there never had much hope. Two weeks later at Manchester City though, they were able to keep City off the scoreboard until the 65th minute, and had the Citizens sweating out a result. We've seen Everton's tendency to disappear at times in the second halves of matches, so if Hull can bunker down and reach the break with the score level, they have a real chance of pulling out a goal in the second half as Everton and the supporters at Goodison Park get frustrated.
The Final Word
This is the sort of match that scares me to death as a supporter. The schedule is going to take an extremely difficult turn very soon, and if Everton is to stay in the top four race, they need to take three points from these sort of matches. The Toffees have shown an improved ability to break down teams that elect to sit ten men behind the ball, as Hull City will, but there is still more work to be done, and the periodic breakdowns at the back that the team has been prone to remain a cause for concern. Will the attack be as potent as we saw it be in the first half of the Newcastle match? Can the backline control the ill-timed breakdowns that have appeared sporadically this season? We find out on Saturday.
- Hull's only previous win in seven league and cup trips to Goodison Park was a 2-0 Division Two victory in August 1952.
- Everton have scored 14 goals in their five home league games against the Tigers, an average of almost three goals per game.
- Everton are unbeaten in their last 12 league matches at Goodison Park, winning nine and keeping eight clean sheets.
- The Toffees are two points worse off after seven games than at the same stage last season under David Moyes.
- Romelu Lukaku has scored four goals and made one assist in just 217 Premier League minutes for Everton
- Hull have not conceded a Premier League goal for three hours and 46 minutes (226 minutes).
- The Tigers are winless in three matches against sides currently in the top half of the league table. They are also yet to score a goal against top-half opposition.
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