Seventh place in the Premier League could still get into Europe and despite Everton’s travails this season, the Blues are only six points behind Burnley and three off Leicester City and could somehow still salvage it.
To do that though Sam Allardyce is going to have to get his side to start picking up some points away from Goodison Park, which appears to be a tall order considering Everton are tied second-worst in the League on the road.
Talk of a clear out at the Boardroom and management levels is rife as no one employed by Everton should feel secure in their positions after this shambolic season. It could start with Bill Kenwright leaving and Director of Football Steve Walsh following suit. Allardyce has been talking like he thinks he’s going to see out his 18-month contract but if he’s still around by the time the summer transfer window opens there are sure to be riots in the blue half of Merseyside.
Stoke City are in trouble, and need a win desperately. The Potters will play four out of the top seven in the coming weeks and will need to pick up points where they can, and Paul Lambert will be targeting the fragile Toffees.
In his seven games since taking over, Stoke have won only his first game in charge with four draws. They are much improved in defence, but will be sweating the fitness of star playmaker and top goalscorer Xherdan Shaqiri who is struggling with a calf injury and hasn’t trained all week.
A win for the Potters will get them out of the bottom three for the moment, and they will be roared on by a home crowd that have become used to Premier League football since the 2008-09 season, and will have to fight against former manager Mark Hughes who has been appointed to get Southampton out of a similar hole, just one point ahead of them.
Allardyce confirmed that Idrissa Gueye is well again and will be in the squad for tomorrow. Theo Walcott left the game late in the win over Brighton & Hove Albion, with what looked like cramp but is fit and should start again.
Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman seemed to have come through with no scratches in their first game together this season, and should also be in the starting lineup.
While Big Sam refuted the original 6-8 week timeline for the return of Gylfi Sigurdsson, he is likely not going to play again this season especially with Iceland’s first ever World Cup campaign looming.
Predicted starting XI
Pickford; Coleman, Jagielka, Keane, Baines; Gueye, Davies, Rooney; Walcott, Tosun, Bolasie.
Though it appears unlikely the Blues will get dragged back into a relegation scrap, it will be good to get another away win to go with the sole victory on the road against Newcastle earlier.
Certainly can’t hurt to build some team chemistry in the remaining eight games and get some momentum to end a miserable season that started off with so much promise.