A very Happy New Year to the Everton family worldwide, here's wishing you all the best for the year 2012! We are right in the midst of the congested holiday schedule - Everton have picked up five of the nine points on offer so far, and will be hoping to pick up some away wins as well while they're at it. This game is an early kickoff (12:30pm GMT, 7:30am EST) so please do remember to wake up in time after your New Year's Eve revelries.
The Toffees once again will be playing a team that is right in the middle of the pack as they are, this time travelling to West Bromwich Albion. 10th place Everton are one point and one place behind the Baggies, though they have a game in hand. The two teams played recently in the third round of the Carling Cup, with Everton equalizing late in regulation time and winning 2-1 in extra time with a Phil Neville goal (yes, that is not a typo - here it is).
Everton will be looking to get 2012 off to a good start with three points at The Hawthorns - however, West Brom frustrated Manchester City in the middle of the week here, grinding out a 0-0 draw with some resolute defending despite City completely dominating the game. West Brom manager Roy Hodgson has turned the side around since his appointment after being sacked by the team-that-need-not-be-named and plays at Anfield, fending off relegation last season.
Everton will be missing Marouane Fellaini with an abductor strain. Also out will be Seamus Coleman. Midfielder Jack Rodwell has trained this week and might play. Loan signing Landon Donovan is not eligible to play for Everton until next week.
West Brom could miss the services of influential midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu after he re-injured his groin during the Boxing Day fixture. James Morrison is another creative influence in the middle of the park, and might play if he has fully recovered from a hamstring issue. Centreback Jonas Olsson is expected to start while Billy Jones will play at right fullback again filling in for Steven Reid.
Keys To The Game
Once again we can expect Moyes to use his ultra-conservative 4-5-1 formation, especially if Rodwell is not fit enough to start. Having Neville and Johnny Heitinga as his only midfield options does nothing for the team creatively, and the burden of making things happen will fall on Royston Drenthe again. Any one of Louis Saha, Denis Stracqualursi or Apostolos Vellios could start, with equal odds of 1 in 50 (maybe?) that one of the trio could buy a goal.
Hodgson should maintain his 4-4-2 formation, and will be looking to improve their poor home form with only two wins in the nine played. Albion have struggled to score and have a -7 goal difference. His team has conceded a league-high six penalties in this campaign, almost all in games where West Brom has been outplayed and hasn't won the possession battle at home.
- West Brom have the highest percentage of goals scored in the first half in the Premier League at 63%.
- Conversely, Everton have the highest percentage of goals scored in the second half of games with 72%.
- Everton has 999 Premier League points, and will be the seventh club to hit the 1,000pt milestone when they do.
- Everton have two clean sheets and seven games where they conceded just one goal in their last ten.
- West Brom did the double over Everton last season, with Mulumbu scoring in both games.
- West Brom's clean sheet against City was their first in ten matches.
- There have been three red cards in the two games the two teams played last season. This season though both are in the top six of the Fair Play table.