Everton's high-flying bubble was burst in a big way after they lost at home to resolute West Bromwich Albion last weekend. After three straight 3-0 wins, that was a crushing result even though the Blues created 34 chances in the game. Tomorrow will see another game that can be considered one of Everton's biggest of the season.
A win at Bournemouth tomorrow will put the Blues one game away from an FA Cup semi-final date at Wembley, and another chance to make something out of this forlorn season. Of course, Dean Court does not hold happy memories for the Toffees after they gave up a late, late equalizer to draw 3-3.
Aaron Lennon has been in sparkling form, and many fans were irritated to see him taken off last week as Everton chased an equalizer. Ross Barkley has been playing very well too. The defence has been much more stable since Tim Howard and John Stones were benched. .
The Cherries have lost two consecutive games at home in the Premier League, to Arsenal and Stoke City. Manager Eddie Howe has insisted that his priority remains relegation survival, and that he would be making some changes to the squad this weekend. However, with Bournemouth having made the quarter finals only once in their history, he will be looking to grow his squad's confidence with an uplifting win tomorrow.
Bournemouth got to the Fifth Round after two identical 2-1 wins away at Birmingham City and Portsmouth. They were knocked out of the League Cup in the Fourth Round after losing 1-0 away at Liverpool. Saturday's hosts have won three, drawn one and lost two of their last six games.
Defender Charlie Daniels has the most assists by a defender in the Premier League this season, with five. Former Everton players Sylvain Distin and Dan Gosling play for Bournemouth, with Distin expected to play at left center half, and Gosling on the bench. Howe usually has his side lined up in a 4-4-1-1 formation, and will be looking to correct the Cherries' poor Cup record - Bournemouth haven't beaten a top division side in the FA Cup since 1984, winning just three of 32 matches against clubs from the top flight (W3 D7 L22).
Manager Howe has promised to keep his starting eleven 'a surprise', and has no fresh injury or suspension worries Long-term absentees Max Gradel, Tyrone Mings and Callum Wilson all continue to be out.
Manager Roberto Martinez has said that Joel Robles has usurped the starting role from Howard, which is a surprise considering how many times he has backed the American keeper. John Stones is fit again and could regain his starting spot.
New signing Oumar Niasse could wait a little longer to make his debut as he is still recovering from minor wrist surgery. Muhamed Besic has not recovered from his hamstring ailment and will miss this game. Tyias Browning and Tony Hibbert are still out with long term injuries.
The bookies have the Toffees as favorites to win and progress - Sky Bet's odds are 6/5 for Everton, with Bournemouth are 9/4 and the draw is priced at 12/5.
With the Blues out of the Capital One Cup, this game becomes Everton's biggest of the season. After getting 18 shots on target last weekend without scoring, expect the Blues to finally get a couple of goals here.
Purely on paper this should be an Everton cakewalk, but we've already seen what happened at Dean Court when the side got overconfident. Should the Blues go behind early, expect the crowd to ratchet up the noise and make for another thriller - pitch invasions nothwithstanding.
Predicted Starting XI
Robles; Baines, Funes Mori, Jagielka, Coleman; McCarthy, Barry; Mirallas, Barkley, Lennon: Lukaku.