Two of the most important games of the second half of Everton's season are now over and both have resulted in losses. The Merseyside Derby ended in an embarrassing rout and the FA Cup Semi-Final resulted in a heart-breaking defeat. Manager Roberto Martinez remains in charge of the team, albeit on a very, very hot seat. His downtrodden squad still have games to play, but look resigned to their all-but-inevitable finish in the lower half of the table.
Their opponent this weekend is an AFC Bournemouth squad that looks poised to survive their first Premier League season. This match along with their final two matches represent the best chance for some points for Everton. Even though those points will do little to increase the team's position in the table, I think the fans and players could use a win or two to finish the year.
The Cherries have performed well in their first foray into the Premier League. Despite early season injuries to Callum Wilson and Tyrone Mings, Bournemouth have managed to stay very competitive throughout the year, even snatching a last minute point from Everton back in November.
Joshua King, Matt Ritchie and Junior Stanislas have been the Cherries main attackers, with the bulk of the team's goals and assists coming from the trio. Manager Eddie Howe has forgone former Everton regular Sylvain Distin in favor of Steve Cook and Simon Francis in central defense.
While Bournemouth have reached the 40 point mark that has traditionally meant safety from relegation, they have nonetheless struggled in their last five matches. A road win at Villa remains the squad's only victory in the month of April and will surely want to put as much space between them and the bottom of the table as possible.
The only injury of note for Bournemouth is that of midfielder Max Gradel who looks set to be a game time decision as he battles back from a hip/thigh injury.
Captain Phil Jagielka will likely miss the rest of the season after re-aggravating his hamstring injury in the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United. The defender was already considered a doubt heading into the semi-final, but put the rest of his season on the line in order to help Everton make it to the final.
Gareth Barry will also miss this weekend's match as he battles a groin injury. Barry will likely be joined don the sidelines by Seamus Coleman who is still dealing with a hamstring injury and may opt to play it safe with the season all but over.
Ramiro Funes Mori remains suspended leaving Roberto Martinez with another defensive selection headache. Look for youngster Matthew Pennington to get a start this week.
The Final Word
Everton no longer have any trophies to play for and a spot in Europe is as far away as it's ever been for the Toffees. Martinez, on the other hand very likely has his job on the line and will need a string of wins if he has any hope of being the manager next year.
Everton are facing a very beatable opponent in Bournemouth, but they are still a dangerous squad with more to play for than Everton.
Projected Starting XI: Robles; Baines, Pennington, Stones, Oviedo; Besic, McCarthy; Mirallas, Barkley, Lennon; Lukaku.