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Everton need professional performance to overcome out-of-form Bournemouth

Toffees seek to improve their unbeaten run at Goodison Park

AFC Bournemouth v Everton - Premier League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

With the transfer window now shut Everton can put all off-field distractions to one side and focus on the remaining 15 games of the season, starting with the visit of Bournemouth on Saturday.

There is certainly a quiet satisfaction to be taken from Everton’s business throughout last month.

There wasn’t a raft of new signings, but the two that did arrive have strengthened the squad in key areas. And by selling off those deemed surplus to requirements the squad looks leaner and more focused on the task in hand.

On the pitch Everton had a 100% league record in January without conceding a goal – resulting in a richly deserved Manager of the Month nomination for Ronald Koeman.

Wednesday night’s draw at a soggy Stoke should also be considered a good result and maintains the momentum for a side that finally looks comfortable carrying out their manager’s instructions.

Seventh place looks like the minimum target but there is no reason why they cannot push for higher.

Man United haven’t lost a league game since October yet they are still only four points ahead of us in sixth.

If Jose Mourinho’s side do go through a rocky spell we need to be in a decent position to take advantage.

That means winning games like Saturday, though Bournemouth have proven a stubborn opponent in recent seasons.

They famously scored a 97th minute equaliser in a pulsating 3-3 draw at the Vitality Stadium last season, a result that began to expose the cracks in Roberto Martinez’s philosophy.

AFC Bournemouth v Everton - Premier League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

But even with a new manager in place Everton still stumbled against the Cherries, Junior Stanislas inflicting the Toffees’ first league defeat of the season back in September.

Everton did secure all three points when the sides met at Goodison in April, though the game was played out in front of a corrosive atmosphere as the fans lost patience with Martinez.

A plane flew over Goodison Park calling for the Spaniard to go, with Leighton Baines’ late winner doing little to lighten the mood.

There is guaranteed to be a better atmosphere when the teams kick-off at 3pm on Saturday. Though whether it will stay that way come the final whistle remains to be seen.

The opposition

While Everton’s 2017 has been going splendidly, Bournemouth’s new year has got off to a rocky start.

Off the pitch a frustrating January transfer window saw the club fail to bring in any senior players while Marc Wilson left for West Brom and Nathan Ake returned to parent club Chelsea.

On the pitch the Cherries have won just one of their last seven league games and are without a victory in any competition since the turn of the year.

The result is a worrying slide down towards the wrong end of the table.

To add to their frustration the last three league games have been against sides in the bottom half of the table – Watford, Hull and Crystal Palace – yet they picked up just one point.

With West Brom, Man City and Man United to follow Saturday’s game at Goodison Park it is easy to see why the Bournemouth fans are a little nervous.

Thankfully for Bournemouth supporters they have won of the country’s brightest young managers at the helm to guide them through this rocky spell.

Eddie Howe took over the club when they were second bottom in League Two and bar a brief spell at Burnley has overseen a spectacular rise through the divisions.

Hull City v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

They comfortably avoided relegation last season, even if their 16th place finish looks as though it was a lot closer.

Consistency has been their main problem this year, with the club failing to win successive league matches so far this season.

Howe’s side have also struggled on their travels, picking up just eight points on the road compared to 18 at home.

It’s not all doom and gloom however. On their day Bournemouth have shown they can compete with the best in the division, beating Liverpool 4-3 in December and drawing with both Arsenal and Tottenham.

Team news

Ronald Koeman must decide whether to recall Idrissa Gueye to the starting line-up after the midfielder’s return from the Africa Cup of Nations.

Muhamed Besic has resumed light training after a knee injury but won’t return for another few weeks.

Bournemouth are without Callum Wilson after the striker ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in training.

Defender Charlie Daniels also misses out as he continues recovery from hamstring injury.

Final word

Everton are the form team while Bournemouth are on the slide, so most tipsters will be putting this down as a home win. Most people tipped the Toffees in the reverse fixture though there cannot be any room for complacency at Goodison Park.

Everton simply have to take the three points to have any chance of cracking the top six. Lets hope they have learned the lessons of last September and can claim another welcome three points.

Predicted starting XI: Robles, Baines, Funes Mori, Williams, Holgate, Coleman, Schneiderlin, Davies, Barkley, Mirallas, Lukaku.