After a thrilling but ultimately pointless game against champions-elect Chelsea, it’s time for Everton to get back to basics in the Premier League. A visit to West Bromwich Albion is no simple task but under former Toffee Alan Irvine the Albion haven’t had the strongest of starts.
The good news is that Romelu Lukaku is apparently fit, Darron Gibson played for Ireland in the week, and other than the obvious (Ross Barkley, Steven Pienaar, Bryan Oviedo, Arouna Kone) there are a couple of concerns - Samuel Eto'o and Leon Osman are nursing minor injuries and their status is up in the air. Despite the poor defensive performance so far the line-up is likely to be: Howard; Coleman, Baines, Jagielka, Distin; McCarthy, Barry; Mirallas, Osman, Naismith; Lukaku
For the Baggies ex-Blue Joleon Lescott could make his first appearance, whilst there is half a team worth of potential debutants. Chris Brunt, Gareth McAuley, Graham Dorrans and Ben Foster all look to have recovered from knocks.
What to watch for
The potential battle between Lukaku and the returning Lescott could be decisive. The big Belgian hasn’t looked fully fit due to a toe injury while the former Blue hasn’t played a first team game since March. Who lasts better might have a big say in the winner of this game, and with Eto’o straining at the leash on the bench it might be that a good sixty minutes from the number 10 is enough.
The absence of the golden boy Barkley has seen Steven Naismith take a much more prominent role in the team than many would have foreseen. And it’s not only his goals return that has been winning fans over; his insatiable workrate and his intelligent movement off the ball have been key in the number of goals that have been scored so far, and how the West Bromwich midfield and defence deal with the Scottish tyro will be key.
Everton and West Brom have only one win between them in total from the past ten league games (Everton beat Hull City on the final day of the season).
Everton’s ten goals conceded is the joint most for the first three games of a season (with Arsenal back in 2011).
Steven Naismith has scored in each of Everton’s three games this season.