Everton are coming off of the second international break, following a draw to Manchester United at Old Trafford, and should be more healthy and fresh than they’ve been in some time when they face their old boss David Moyes and his West Ham United club.
While both Lucas Digne and captain Seamus Coleman appear to be fit enough to play after previously sustaining minor nicks, the team continues to wait for the return of both Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison, and so likely will have to face West Ham at Goodison Park without their two offensive aces yet again.
In any event, the whole Toffee team will have to be prepared for West Ham sits just three points off of the Blues, and the Hammers are full of brilliant talent, featuring Michail Antonio, that can make any Premier League outfit pay in a serious way.
RBM: First off, West Ham are coming off of a really impressive year where they qualified outright for the Europa League; with the team in ninth on the table with eleven points so far, what are the feelings around the club and of its supporters at this still-early point in the new campaign?
Optimism. The season has started pretty well and they’ve won their first two games in the Europa League; they haven’t struggled with the adaptation to European football so far. However it isn’t all perfect. They haven’t been defending too well - the 2-2 home draw with Crystal Palace was sloppy - and the extra demands appears to have affected their league form judging by the late defeats to Manchester United and Brentford, both of which followed Thursday night assignments.
RBM: Michail Antonio has been superb again this season, yet he alone cannot carry the entire team across a full season any more than Dominic Calvert-Lewin can; who are fans looking at to offer him more offensive assistance in the final third?
Jarrod Bowen and Pablo Fornals are also playing well and Said Benrahma is capable of offering plenty of creativity (though he is inconsistent). Everton fans will also probably be worried about Nikola Vlasic coming back to haunt them. But more is needed from Tomas Soucek - the midfielder has looked a bit leggy so far.
RBM: What does this team do well when it’s on form that other teams struggle to consistently stop?
Quick counterattacks when they win the ball. Set pieces are dangerous.
RBM: Having succeeded any and likely all expectations last season, what is expected of this outfit going forward this year?
Another top half finish.
RBM: Who can you imagine, apart from Antonio, might give Everton some trouble at Goodison Park, and how might the Hammers lineup against Rafa and the Toffees this time?
[One-time Everton target] Bowen probably. Declan Rice has also added more to his game. I’d expect a similar line up to the one that lost to Brentford, although Vlasic could replace Benrahma.
I guess that Moyes could also switch to a back five.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Sunday’s match?
Our thanks to Jacob for his time.