Best wishes to all Royal Blue Mersey readers and hoping you have a happy and prosperous 2017.
Everton round off their holiday schedule with a home game on Monday afternoon against Southampton. This game also marks the beginning of the second half of the Premier League schedule for the Blues, having lost 1-0 at the Saints earlier in the season.
After a good away performance to pick up three points at Leicester City, the Blues couldn’t sustain it at Hull City and had to come back from behind twice to draw. A win against Ronald Koeman’s former side would be a most optimal way to start off 2017 and the highly anticipated January transfer window.
Southampton have lost two consecutive games and would be right to feel aggrieved after the schedule-makers have them playing three times in six days over the festive period. Claude Puel is going to want to make sure they get some points in the trip to Goodison Park, with the Saints sitting three points behind the seventh-placed Toffees.
The Saints were badly overwhelmed by Tottenham to start off the holidays. Central defender Virgil van Dijk, whose name has come up often for a big money transfer in this transfer window, put Southampton up in the second minute at home, very much like they had against Everton.
However, Spurs are a much different proposition than the Blues and came roaring back to score four times, with Nathan Redmond being sent off with half an hour to play. Speaking of which, here’s some mid-article entertainment - Harry Kane did this to the subsequent penalty from the red card.
Harry Kane may have just skied a penalty into 2017, but the penalty spot bloody moved https://t.co/OP2XU4Hy77— Alex Bullions (@BullionsCFC) December 28, 2016
The Saints then followed up with a limp performance against West Bromwich Albion who won 2-1 down south to leapfrog Southampton in the table. This comment here should tell you all you need to know about that game.
St Mary's is not a happy place at the moment, the fans are on the verge of a mutiny and the players' body language hints that all is not well in the dressing room. One shot on target after 68 percent of the ball is an insult.
What was worse for the Saints was that Virgil van Dijk went and got sent off, which means he’s unavailable for the Everton game. Is it possible he has played his last game for the club, with all the attention he’s been getting from the rumour mill?
Maarten Stekelenburg remains out and Joel Robles should continue in goal. James McCarthy and Bryan Oviedo are yet to resume training as well.
Redmond returns to the side from suspension, but van Dijk will miss out. Ryan Bertrand should also start after having been rested in the last game.
After a disappointing end to 2016 with a draw at Hull, Everton will need to be motivated to start off 2017 on a more positive note. The home atmosphere has been more positive lately especially after the Arsenal win, and the players will need to hear that support loud and clear tomorrow.
Fans getting behind their Blues loud and early should help to hound a tired Southampton side. A strong start free of individual mistakes leading to goals conceded is almost mandatory to get away with three points.
There’s an Annual General Meeting coming up on Wednesday with plenty of anticipation about the possible announcement of a new stadium, so a win against Southampton would be a great appetizer for that delicious entree.
Predicted Everton starting XI
Against Southampton’s 4-3-3, Koeman will likely stick to his favoured 4-2-3-1. There was very little communication between the fullbacks and wingers last time around, and Koeman is going to want more from out wide.
Robles; Coleman, Williams, Funes Mori, Baines; Gueye, Davies; Mirallas, Barkley, Valencia, Lukaku.