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Everton aim to go out on a high against Watford

It’s Goodison under the lights for the final home game of the season

Watford v Everton - Premier League Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

Everton will bring the curtain down on a successful Goodison season tonight hoping to send the supporters away for the summer on a high.

The Toffees’ form at home has been the undoubted highlight of the campaign and the cornerstone of their revival under Ronald Koeman.

If you want a symbol of their progress under the Dutchman you only need go back exactly 12 months, when on May 12 2016 Roberto Martinez was finally put out of his Goodison misery.

Back then Everton were limping to a second successive bottom half finish with their worst-ever home points total.

Rewind back to today and with two games still to play Everton have accumulated 11 more points, are guaranteed to finish four places higher and have secured European football for next season.

Victory against Watford will also ensure Everton have collected more points at Goodison than in any other Premier League campaign.

But such is the renewed ambition within the corridors of power at Goodison this season is only seen as the start, with plenty of scope for improvement.

Tonight’s game is likely to be the final Goodison appearance for a number of players as Koeman plots a summer clearout.

Manchester United v Everton - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Recent results and performances against West Ham, Chelsea and Swansea only serve to highlight the pressing need for new signings. The ‘heads on the beach’ excuse can only mitigate those results so far.

Morgan Schneiderlin has already become a key component of the side and his absence was sorely missed in the last two matches. While the long-term absence of Seamus Coleman has blunted a key focal point of the team’s attack.

At least one centre-half is needed as well as a new goalkeeper and that’s before we even get to the futures of Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley.

The future of Barkley was a key discussion point this week, with Koeman issuing the player with a typically blunt ultimatum.

One of the reasons Koeman was brought into the club was his direct and often cold approach compared to the flowery, sycophantic nature of Martinez.

His handling of Barkley is case in point. He’s not letting the fact Barkley is a local lad and boyhood blue cloud his judgement.

To be fair to Ross he has not complained to the press or let it affect his performances. But the continued impasse does make you wonder just what the issue might be.

In my opinion he would be foolish to move on, given he is unlikely to be a regular at any of the top six sides.

The reality is though that it could be the last time he runs out at Goodison Park wearing an Everton shirt.

Maybe a quick glance around the bright lights of of the Old Lady tonight will serve as a reminder of what he will be missing should he move on.

The opposition

If you think Everton are coasting towards the season finale then take a look at Watford.

Since reaching 40 points with victory over Swansea on April 15 the Hornets have lost their last three matches without scoring a goal.

With Chelsea and Man City to follow in their final two matches it’s unlikely the campaign will end on a high.

That may well prompt further change in the dugout, with the future of Walter Mazzari in doubt.

To be fair to the Italian he is not the first and unlikely to be the last coach to fear for his job under Watford owner Gino Pozzo.

The club have gone through eight managers in six years since the Pozzo family took control of the club in 2012.

With that has come a flurry of new signings, many of whom were signed from Udinese and Granada, clubs also owned by the Pozzo family (before Granada was sold in 2016).

Despite the high turnover of players and managers the club has been on a consistent upward curve since the Pozzo’s arrival.

Watford v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

The club secured promotion in 2015 and avoided relegation from the Premier league for the first time last campaign. With safety secured once again it means Watford are enjoying their longest run in the top flight since the 1980s.

Whether that will be enough to keep Mazzarri in a job remains to be seen. And I get the impression his fate may already be sealed regardless of what happens in the final three matches of the season.

Team news

Morgan Schneiderlin is fit to return after recovering from a thigh injury that saw him miss defeats to Chelsea and Swansea. Muhamed Besic is also in the squad and could make his first appearance of the season following a serious knee injury.

Maarten Stekelenburg misses out though with the goalkeeper struggling with a groin problem.

Tom Cleverley is absent for Watford under the terms of his loan move from Everton. Miguel Bristos and Craig Cathcart are also absent but Ben Watson and Jose Holebas are available to return.

Final word

With little to play for and minds drifting towards the summer do not expect this game to have too much intensity.

That said the players will certainly want to end the home campaign on a high, particularly after a run of disappointing performances.

I fancy Everton to do the business and send us all home for the summer happy and optimistic for the future.

Predicted starting XI: Robles, Baines, Williams, Jagielka, Holgate, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Davies, Mirallas, Calvert-Lewin, Lukaku.