There’s just enough of a cushion between Everton and the bottom three not to be able to fall back on the old ‘focusing on the league’ chestnut.
But after a disappointing showing at home to Reading in the FA Cup, that’s all they’ve got left now. There’s still plenty left to play for ensuring Premier League survival but even the manager sympathised with those fans who vented their frustrations at seeing their side give up their chance at some silverware in such a fashion.
That game is done and gone and though the manager will be concerned about his side’s lack of consistency, not helped by the absences of Fellaini and Cahill, the best way to lighten the mood around Goodison Park is to return from St James’ with all three points. One point wouldn’t be a disastrous result considering Everton’s record at that ground and Newcastle’s current league form, which has seen them lose just once in their last nine. They have drawn five of the eight games they’ve been unbeaten in and with Everton drawing seven of their fourteen away games and Newcastle drawing six of their fourteen home games, the 23/10 on the draw holds a lot of appeal. Everton have also come away with a point from four of their last six visits to St James’, so scorelines of 1-1 at 5/1 and 2-2 at 12/1 look like sensible options.
The injuries to Cahill and Fellaini are undeniable blows but the way the team reacted to Cahill’s absence during the Asia Cup indicates that they’ll be able to cope. Getting Louis Saha back amongst the goals will be important and though Jermaine Beckford scored a brace against Sunderland, it’s the Frenchman who should get the nod to start, if fit. Saha is 11/2 to score first and 7/4 to score anytime. With their star duo missing, more emphasis will be put on the full-backs and wide players to forward and support the striker(s) so Coleman at 16/1 to score first and Baines at 18/1 are potentially profitable options.
It’s not a ground Everton have had a lot of success at over the last ten years and though a positive reaction and a battling display could well see them take the win 9/5, it’s going to be tight. Backing the draw may feel like a bit of a cop out but if it’s accompanied by a good performance it should satisfy punters and fans alike.