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Everton v West Brom - Match Preview

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After three successive 3-0 victories all seems rosy in the Goodison garden again after the lows of Swansea and Man City last month.

Granted, the three wins were against a League 2 side and two of the Premier Leagues out-of-form teams. But the manner of the victories and, perhaps most importantly, the three clean sheets has raised hopes that a corner has been turned.

After a patchy end to 2015 several players seem to be coming into form, most notably Ross Barkley and Aaron Lennon, who have scored seven goals between them in Everton’s last four matches.

The presence of Joel Robles has also had a calming influence on the back four, with three clean sheets a welcome relief from some of the defensive chaos we witnessed during the first half of the season.

The first back-to-back league wins of the campaign have also lifted Everton out of the bottom half to eighth place, raising hopes that a challenge for the European places may still have legs.

Saturday’s game represents another great opportunity to continue that forward momentum.

The opposition

This may well be a good time to be playing West Brom with Tony Pulis’ side enduring a tough few weeks.

The Baggies have lost three out of their last five games and are without a win in seven matches away from home.

They only managed to scrape past League 1 Peterborough on penalties in midweek but even that win came at a cost, with Gareth McAuley adding to a growing injury crisis that may see them have just three first senior defenders at Goodison Park.

Despite that poor form they remain 14th and six points clear of the relegation zone. However, they look vulnerable to being sucked down into the mire at the foot of the table.

Pulis’ style of play is well known and has largely been tolerated by the West Brom fans. But as results began to turn the murmurs of discontent have grown, the Welshman knows he needs to pick up some points and fast if his position is to avoid being put under even greater scrutiny.

The last time the teams met in September saw Everton fightback from two goals down to snatch the game 3-2, Arouna Kone coming off the bench to score while Romelu Lukaku bagged two goals to continue his fine form against his old club.

Team news

Tim Howard and John Stones are back in training but remain doubtful for Saturday’s game.

Deadline day signing Oumar Niasse has trained all week and could make his Toffees debut, most likely from the bench.

Muhamed Besic remains sidelined with a hamstring problem but could return against Bournemouth in the FA Cup next weekend.

Final word

Given the form of the two sides the smart money has to be on Everton to come out on top.

But given the side’s inconsistency this season, especially at home, there is no such thing as a home banker when the Toffees are involved.

That said, there will be very few excuses if Everton don't take the points given the two respective line-ups.

If Everton play to their potential – and it remains a big if – then this should be a reasonably comfortable home win.

Predicted starting XI: Robles, Oviedo, Funes Mori, Jagielka, Coleman, McCarthy, Barry, Cleverley, Barkley, Lennon, Lukaku.