Cardiff City v Everton

Two-and-a-half Everton-free weeks have passed by but now the Blues travel to Wales to take on a depleted Cardiff outfit in a must win clash for both sides

Three consecutive Premier League losses have seen Everton fall to 11th in the table, but Southampton, who currently occupy the third and final relegation place, are only nine points behind the Toffees.

So before the Blues get dragged into any sort of fight for survival, Marco Silva needs to mastermind wins in the final 11 games of the season, and fast.

Cardiff currently sit one place above Southampton, a point better off than the Saints.

Neil Warnock’s side gained promotion to the self-proclaimed best league in the world via a second place finish in the Championship last term and were seen as favourites for the drop.

A swift return to the second tier is still likely, but they have by no means been the pushovers they were expected to be.

A 2-1 win against Wolves and a league double over Southampton, two things Everton were unable to achieve this season, have proved vital in their battle against the drop.

But Friday night football knocked the stuffing out of the Bluebirds. Watford travelled to the Cardiff City Stadium and hit them for five.

A hat-trick from former Everton winger Gerard Deulofeu and a Troy Deeney brace condemned Cardiff to an embarrassing loss at home.

That was the third time this campaign Cardiff have shipped five goals, with Manchester City and Manchester United both putting them to the sword earlier this season.

An Everton victory with results elsewhere going in the Toffees’ favour could see them rise to ninth and all but end any imminent threat of relegation.

A Cardiff win could see the Bluebirds rise a place in the table, if Brighton lose against Leicester.

The reverse fixture at Goodison was a very uninspiring win for Everton, Gylfi Sigurdsson’s strike in the 59th minute sealed the points but it wasn’t great.

One to watch 

No one in particular stands out in Cardiff’s ranks, which is probably why they find themselves where they are in the league.

But once again Everton’s susceptibility from set-pieces could be their downfall in South Wales.

Players like Sol Bamba, Sean Morrison and Bruno Ecuele Manga will be licking their lips every time Cardiff win a corner or have a free-kick around the Everton 18-yard box.

Team news 

Phil Jagielka is fit and available for selection, Leighton Baines will face a late fitness test but Yerry Mina is still out.

Victor Camarasa is a doubt for the hosts.

Man in the middle  

Kevin Friend will take charge of this one. This will be Friend’s third Everton game of the season after he refereed the Blues’ draw at Stamford Bridge and their home fixture against Watford.

In 28 games this season, he has shown a whopping 96 yellow cards and two reds.

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