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Everton look to round off 2016 with win at struggling Hull

Toffees face the Premier League’s bottom side at the KCOM Stadium

Hull City v Everton - Premier League Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Everton’s December, veering from the sublime to the ridiculous, took a welcome upward curve against Leicester City on Boxing Day to help lift spirits following that crushing derby defeat.

The Toffees weren’t at their fluid best, particularly in the first half, but Ronald Koeman is sacrificing style for substance until he can bring in the players he wants to complete his vision.

It also has to be said that Everton benefitted from some pretty sloppy defending from a Leicester side badly out of form and looking a shadow of the team that won the league just eight months ago.

However, to simply put the win down to the ineptness of the opposition would be a touch unfair. We have been quick to criticise the team for their displays this season so they deserve praise for their resilience in grinding out a result at the King Power Stadium.

The busy Christmas period means we have little time to dwell on the result as Everton’s next match, away at Hull City, is already on the horizon.

Everton’s final match of 2016 will also mark the exact halfway stage of the season and an ideal opportunity to take stock on what has happened over the past few months.

Rounding off the calendar year with a victory would certainly make that review easier and perhaps begin to generate some vital momentum heading into what promises to be a busy transfer window.

The opposition

Few people will be surprised at the sight of Hull propping up the table at this stage of the season.

The Tigers may have bounced back into the Premier League at the first attempt with victory in May’s play-off final, but they still have one of the smallest budgets in the top flight and one of the weakest squads.

Steve Bruce recognised the team’s deficiencies in the summer but inertia at boardroom level meant early signings were not made and prompted him to quit on the eve of the season.

Former Manchester United assistant Mike Phelan stepped up as interim boss, helping the club to victories in their opening two matches of the season.

Phelan would eventually be given the reins full time, though the team failed to maintain their promising start.

Hull have won just once in the league since August to slip to the bottom of the table, below even crisis-club Swansea.

They have lost 12 of their 18 matches so far this season, scoring a league low 14 goals and conceding a whopping 39 – only Swansea have let in more.

A rare bit of good news saw a number of key players extend their contracts the club earlier this month but they will need to be joined by a number of new players in January if they are to have any chance of avoiding the drop.

Mike highlighted their deficiencies in his excellent preview article, suggesting Everton should go there confident of claiming the points.

That said it has taken late penalties to break the deadlock in their previous two games, meaning the Tigers may be recovering a bit of their bite at the back.

Team news

Everton will once again be without Maarten Stekelenburg and James McCarthy for the trip to the KCOM Stadium.

Both players missed the Leicester win with thigh and hamstring injuries respectively, though McCarthy has since resumed light training.

Bryan Oviedo is also absent, Muhamed Besic won’t return until February while Yannick Bolasie is out long-term.

Hull have no fresh injury concerns with Abel Hernandez, Will Keane and Moses Odubajo long-term absentees.

Final word

Everton don’t go into many games expecting victory but this certainly should be one. However, given the team’s infuriating inconsistencies this season it would be no surprise if they have one last let down for us to endure in 2016.

The first goal will probably be crucial and the team will have to be patient If it doesn’t arrive straight away. A scrappy 1-0 victory would do me fine.

Predicted starting XI: Robles, Coleman, Holgate, Williams, Funes Mori, Baines, Gueye, Barry, Lennon, Mirallas, Lukaku.