When and Where: Tomorrow 12:45pm GMT, the Liberty Stadium
Referee: Michael Oliver
Everton are enjoying their best form of the season in the Premier League with three wins from three and although they have no race to run this Grand National weekend or for the rest of the season, they will be looking to extend that to four wins.
The previous encounter with the Swans was a tedious 0-0 draw, with the only excitement coming when former Liverpool midfielder Jonjo Shelvey walking back to the dressing room having received a second yellow card.
The last time the Blues traveled to Swansea was for a 3-0 drubbing they were given by Garry Monk’s side in the third round of the Capital One Cup; admittedly it was a heavily weakened side that Martinez put, out but any repeat of that performance should not be on the agenda.
As we read or heard earlier in the week, Darron Gibson is set miss the remaining seven games of the season with a metatarsal injury. Tony Hibbert is also out of Saturday’s game with a knee injury and Aiden McGeady is unlikely to feature because of a back injury. Interestingly, McGeady was injured before the international break and now after it but was fine to play 68 minutes in ROI’s 1-1 draw with Poland. Bryan Oviedo is absent with a hamstring injury and the same injury is giving Romelu Lukaku only a 50-50 chance of playing at the weekend.
Kyle Naughton damaged his ankle ligaments against Hull City last weekend and is out for the rest of the season. Swansea favourite Angel Rangel is set to replace him and start for the first time in more than two months. Jefferson Montero injured his hamstring on international duty with Ecuador but could make the bench tomorrow. Midfielder Tom Carroll, on-loan from Tottenham, is out with an ankle injury also picked up on international duty – for England’s u21s.
What to watch for:
In the return fixture at Goodison Park, Swansea sat 10 men behind the ball and let Everton have the ball for the majority of the game, but the Blues unable to break them down. Maybe with Swansea being the home team they might not employ the same tactics. However if Garry Monk only wants a point or to sneak a 1-0 victory, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he used tactics that have already worked.
Since Swansea’s promotion to the Premier League, Everton have won all three games at the Liberty by pressing the Swans' possession-based style of play high up the field. If Everton are to win, pressing high up the field to win the ball back will be the key. Someone who will optimize that tactic will be Aaron Lennon. Lennon has rejuvenated the side by using his pace to press the full-back to win the ball back.
Ross Barkley will be looking to build on his past two performances for England and Everton. Last week against Southampton, the youngster showed glimpses of last season's form and signs he was getting back to being Everton’s most influential attacking player. Captain Phil Jagielka has really stepped up in the last month or so as the Toffees have begun to turn their fortunes around by grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck. Furthermore, the defender that would throw himself in-front of and block every shot and almost have a magnet to ball when defending has been coming back. Jagielka, like Barkley, will be looking to build on his England performance and last week’s against Southampton, as well as his manful defensive display against Queens Park Rangers. Finally, Tim Howard, who hasn’t had the greatest of seasons to be kind to the American, will be looking to replicate last weekend's shot stopping form against the likes of Shelvey, Bafetimbi Gomis and Ki Sung-Yueng.
The Final Word:
Everton have never lost to Swansea in the league and it would be a shame if that piece of history was to be taken away. It wasn’t a nice feeling when Swansea beat us for the first time in that League Cup game and a repeat would just replicate those feelings. Beyond the history aspect, this has been an awful season. Some good results in the Europa League cannot hide that fact. So much anticipation before this season with fans has been wasted. More recently, it has been nice to feel what winning is like again and what a run of wins is like and the end of the season should be used as a platform for next. However, if there is any feeling that Swansea have nothing to play for and are already on their holidays would be mistaken because if the Swans win they will have accumulated their highest Premier League points tally; a piece of their own history they will be fighting.