Everton visit West Ham United on Saturday knowing that a win could move them back into the top half of the table.
Victory over the Hammers would see the Blues record their first league double over a side this season, having win the reverse fixture 2-0 at Goodison Park in October.
Like Everton, West Ham changed their manager in December, sacking Manuel Pellegrini before re-appointing former Toffees boss David Moyes.
They go into this weekend’s round of fixtures in 16th, but with only point separating them from the relegation zone.
Prior to Saturday’s game, we spoke to Dan Coker, Hammers fan and writer at West Ham Till I Die:
RBM: Firstly, was the time right for West Ham to part with Manuel Pellegrini last month?
Dan: I think so. I’m not one to call for a manager’s head but things just weren’t working out at all.
Pellegrini didn’t seem to recognise other team’s strengths or weaknesses towards the end and his stubbornness in refusing to recognise [goalkeeper] Roberto’s shortcomings for so long was staggering. We needed a change ahead of the January window.
RBM: Under David Moyes, West Ham progressed to the FA Cup fourth round, beat Bournemouth 4-0 and lost 1-0 at Sheffield United. How much improvement have they made with him so far?
Dan: The performance against Bournemouth showed more heart and purpose than the aimless drifting we’d become used to. The Gillingham [FA Cup] game was a tie that a Pellegrini side would almost certainly have lost.
Sheffield United was a Moyes game that we’d become used to from his previous tenure - try to stay in the game as long as possible, not too much attacking intent and see if we can nick something - we nearly did.
RBM: Łukasz Fabiański is again sidelined for this game. Given West Ham won only three of the 13 games he missed earlier in the season, how much do you fear for them in this game without him in goal?
Dan: I’d fear for us more if we’re stuck with Roberto. We’ve re-signed Darren Randolph, which is a crazy move which highlights the lack of ambition - a goalkeeper we deemed not good enough two-and-a-half years ago all of a sudden is good enough.
He’s also been carrying an injury for two months so we’re replacing an injured goalkeeper with one who’s not fully fit. He’ll probably play on Saturday - he’s not a bad keeper but he’s not a great one either. We’ll miss Fabiański’s calming influence.
RBM: Aside from probably another goalkeeper, where else should West Ham look to strengthen during the January transfer window?
Dan: Right-back and central midfield. We’ve been crying out for a decent right-back for over a decade - seven of our last eight right-backs have been freebies or loans and it’s time we invested in quality in that position.
Similar in central midfield - we’ve sold Pedro Obiang, Cheikhou Kouyaté and Edimilson Fernandes but replaced them with the permanently-injured Jack Wilshere and the permanently-useless Carlos Sánchez, again both on free transfers. January is not a buyers’ market so I’m not confident of miracles.
RBM: The goals have dried up for West Ham’s £45 million striker Sébastien Haller, who has just two strikes in his last 14 appearances. Is this more due to a lack of service, or any particular failing on his part?
Dan: His success in Germany was down to having players close to him - he’s been too often isolated as a lone frontman with us and his head has started to drop in recent weeks.
We’re all hoping Moyes can work the same magic he did on Marko Arnautović when he was last here.
RBM: West Ham’s stadium move in 2016 was initially a huge source of frustration for fans. Is it still as much of an issue now?
Dan: The move wasn’t well-planned or sufficiently thought through. We were told we’d have retractable seating but it’s temporary scaffolding which covers the running track; we were told we’d have affordable football but have had to go up two price bands for similar seats to those held at Upton Park; we were told the move would help us compete but I’ve already highlighted the lack of investment in key positions; we were told last summer that the gap behind the goals would be reduced by extra seats but it hasn’t happened.
As you say, the move was a huge source of frustration but it’s the misleading deceit which has resulted in the issue festering.
RBM: How do you expect West Ham to set up on Saturday?
Dan: Randolph in goal. With Ryan Fredericks and possibly Arthur Masuaku injured, we’ll probably have a back three of Fabián Balbuena, Issa Diop and Angelo Ogbonna with Pablo Zabaleta and Aaron Cresswell as wing-backs - Cressy would otherwise play in the central three but may be pushed wider if Masuaku is out.
Declan Rice and Mark Noble in holding midfield with Manuel Lanzini and Pablo Fornals supporting Haller, if rumours of Felipe Anderson’s absence through injury are correct. Michail Antonio is a big miss.
RBM: Which of West Ham’s players do you think could cause Everton the most problems?
Dan: Lanzini tends to play well against the Toffees but is still finding his feet after a bad knee injury. Fornals is getting to grips with English football. Both need to get close to Haller if we are to be an attacking threat.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Saturday’s game?
Dan: I correctly predicted a 2-0 Everton win for our trip to Goodison earlier in the season and I’m honestly not much more confident for this encounter given our potential injuries. I think it will be 1-0 to the Toffees but I obviously hope for better.
Our thanks to Dan for his time.