There is lots at stake on Saturday at Goodison Park. Everton fell apart in a period of less than ten minutes last weekend and lost to Norwich City while it took all of a dozen minutes to undo Reading at home against Wigan. Both teams desperately need the three points on offer, and while the game will hardly be a classic, it will be hard-fought.
David Moyes will attempt to nip in the bud the growing disquiet among the fanbase - he still hasn't clarified his contract situation, he failed at picking up any impact players during the transfer window, his team has thrown away points from promising positions and the players could be tuning him out now. Everton are one win away from a return to Wembley via the FA Cup and it would be no surprise if Moyes shows more focus on that competition.
Chris Hughton has done an excellent job with Reading, especially when playing against the better teams. It's when they've played against the minnows that they've struggled the most. He certainly has some quality players in his side, but could be forgiven for looking ahead to their three upcoming home games against fellow strugglers.
Team News -
Goalie Tim Howard's campaign to break Neville Southall's club record of consecutive League appearances could be under threat - he picked up a knock midweek just two games short of 212. Tony Hibbert remains the only long term casualty on the Toffees. Victor Anichebe has missed a couple of weeks and could make the bench for this one. Marouane Fellaini was rested during the midweek FA Cup game and should come back into the side, while Kevin Mirallas sparkled during the same game and should retain his place at right wing.
Goalie Alex McCarthy is still out as are Danny Guthrie and veteran Jason Roberts. Striker Pavel Pogrebnyak was sent off last week and will be suspended for three games, so dangerman Adam Le Fondre could get the start.
Keys To The Game -
Everton will really need to start putting away some of the chances they create. It has been a trademark of this season, where they have won the possession battles and created the opportunities but with no goals to show for their endeavours. They have been threatening a goal glut for a while and Reading's brittle defence could be just what the doctor at Goodison ordered.
Reading hadn't won a game in ten when they played Everton in November, so naturally they won one. Reading have also not kept a single clean sheet away from home this season coming into this weekend's fixture, so will they do the 'double' and make this the game they do? Hard to see how that will happen though, considering they are the joint second worst defence in the league. Expect Reading to pack the midfield and rely on Jimmy Kebe for counterattacks.
Match Facts -
- Everton are tied with Stoke City with 12 draws, the most in the Premier League.
- The Toffees have only one loss at home this year, against Chelsea.
- Only two teams have lost more points from winning positions than Everton - Reading & Southampton.
- Everton have used the fewest players this season of all the teams in the League - 22
- Reading has only one away win all season, at Newcastle with Le Fondre getting both goals.
- The Royals have scored 1/3rd of their 33 goals in the last ten minutes of games this season.