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Everton v West Ham – Match Preview

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I can’t remember having a more enjoyable week as an Everton fan in a long, long time.

News of Farhad Moshiri’s takeover has prompted a flurry of positive activity off the pitch, from news of plans to expand the club’s Finch Farm training ground, a ‘transfer war chest’ for Roberto Martinez in the summer and a reduction in season ticket prices for next campaign.

On the pitch Everton eased past a terrible Aston Villa side on Tuesday to make it five wins in six games in all competitions.

Happy days.

It sets the team up nicely for a pivotal month that features three home games, starting with Saturday’s visit of West Ham before Chelsea in the FA Cup next week and Arsenal back in the league seven days later.

Everton’s home form is what has let the side down this so far this season so the next few weeks is a great chance to right some nagging wrongs.

The feel-good factor generated by Moshiri’s arrival should hopefully boost the atmosphere around Goodison, which has grown increasingly toxic this season with each underwhelming performance.

Martinez also knows his position will be under greater scrutiny following the changes in the boardroom. The Spaniard will want a strong finish to the season to ensure he is the man to spend that new-found transfer kitty in the summer.

The opposition

Though not traditionally a grudge match Saturday’s game against West Ham has suddenly developed a bit of an edge, among the supporters at least, after what happened when the sides last met late last year.

During the first half of November’s game at Upton Park Dimitri Payet was forced off with an ankle injury after a late challenge by James McCarthy.

It was a poor challenge by the Irishman but certainly not the worst tackle I have seen, yet the reaction from the West Ham fans bordered on the hysterical.

That frenzied reaction continued after the game, with some Hammers fans seemingly frothing at the mouth when it emerged Payet would miss around two months through injury.

They now arrive at Goodison desperate for "revenge", apparently.

Despite the over-the-top reaction, Payet has recovered fully and is playing a key role in an increasingly impressive season for the Hammers, who now find themselves on the brink of the Champions League places.

The French midfielder is West Ham’s outstanding performer so far this season with nine goals and a further eight assists.

They are managed, of course, by Slaven Bilic, who played 28 games for Everton between 1997 and 1999.

Wednesday’s win against Tottenham lifted them to within a point of fourth-placed Man City and within a real shout of the Champions League places.

They also boast the sixth best away record in the division with just four defeats from 14 away games so far this season as well as wins at Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City.

That said, they remain one of Everton’s favourite Premier League opponents. The Toffees haven’t lost to West Ham in 15 league matches stretching back to 2007

Romelu Lukaku meanwhile has scored Everton time he’s played against West Ham in an Everton shirt, including both FA Cup meetings last season.

Team news

Bryan Oviedo is a doubt for Saturday’s game with a knock suffered against Aston Villa on Tuesday.

Leighton Baines is available to deputise despite an ongoing ankle problem that requires a visit to a specialist.

Tom Cleverley missed the Villa win through illness but could return while Muhamed Besic and Darron Gibson are also pushing for recalls after injury.

West Ham are suffering from a defensive injury crisis with James Collins the latest player to become unavailable after suffering a hamstring injury.

Fellow defenders Winston Reid, James Tomkins, Joey O'Brien are also injured while Sam Byram is suspended.

Final word

I

’m hopeful we will see a different Everton at Goodison Park than we have done in recent weeks, even months.

There is a real feel-good factor about the club and it is crucial the team takes advantage of that.

It will be a tough game against one of the division’s most in-form teams, but I’m hopeful Everton can nick it.

Prediction: Everton 2-1 West Ham

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