Everton need a win to keep themselves in contention for a top four finish when they host Man Utd at Goodison Park on Sunday (16:10 BST, live on Sky Sports).
The Toffees come into the match on the back of a disappointing midweek loss at home to Crystal Palace that ended a seven-match winning streak. They are fifth in the Premier League table with 66 points from 19 wins, nine draws and six defeats.
Roberto Martinez’s side were undone by a textbook counter-attacking performance from Palace. Everton dominated possession, but were unable to create high-quality chances against a well-organised visiting defence. Palace scored twice from quick breaks and once from a set-piece to record a 3-2 victory.
The defeat now makes it difficult for Everton to pip Arsenal to the final Champions League qualifying spot, with a point separating them and the Toffees facing tough matches away to Southampton and at home to Manchester City following the visit of United this weekend. Regardless of their final position, it has, however, been an excellent season for the club.
Martinez has built on the solid foundations left by his predecessor David Moyes, maintaining the defensive solidity that was a hallmark of the previous regime while adding greater invention and variety to Everton’s attacking play. His neat, attractive and well-organised team have already accumulated the club’s highest points total in the Premier League era.
Martinez will definitely be without the injured Arouna Kone (knee), Bryan Oviedo (broken leg), Darron Gibson (knee), Lacina Traore (hamstring) and Steven Pienaar (knee) for the visit of United, while Phil Jagielka (hamstring) is a doubt. James McCarthy is expected to return to the starting lineup after a muscular problem limited him to the bench in midweek.
Man Utd come into Sunday’s match on the back of a long rest following their elimination from the Champions League at the hands of Bayern Munich. They are seventh in the Premier League table with 57 points from 17 wins, six draws and 10 defeats.
The defeat to Bayern was to be expected, but United have shown some signs of improvement in recent league fixtures, winning 4-1 at home to Aston Villa and 4-0 away to Newcastle either side of the two legs of that tie. They have a game in hand on Tottenham Hotspur in sixth and will be hopeful of overhauling them by the end of the season.
January signing Juan Mata (pictured above) has begun to wield greater creative influence in recent times, scoring three goals and providing one assist in the victories over Villa and Newcastle. With Robin Van Persie injured, he has been moved from a wide position into a central attacking midfield role behind a central striker and has benefited appreciably from the additional freedom.
Moyes has endured rather than enjoyed much of his first season at Old Trafford, but will have taken some encouragement from his side’s improved attacking play and moments of defensive solidity in recent weeks. He can also point to the fact that United currently boast the best away record in the division to make a case for his continuation at the club.
Moyes will definitely be without the injured Robin Van Persie (knee) for this match, but Marouane Fellaini (calf) and Wayne Rooney (toe) are both expected to be fit enough to face their former club.
Everton v Man Utd Betting Tips
Everton won 1-0 when these sides met at Old Trafford earlier this season thanks to an 86th minute winner from Bryan Oviedo and also triumphed by the same scoreline at Goodison Park last season. There have been two wins for Everton, one for United and two draws in their last five meetings on Merseyside.
The Toffees are, midweek defeated excepted, in excellent form and have been particularly strong at Goodison Park, with the fourth best home record in the division. Martinez has shown himself capable of making astute tactical adjustments for particular opponents and is sure to have formulated a plan to make the most of United’s deficiencies.
Moyes returns to Goodison Park for the first time since leaving to join United last summer, but is unlikely to receive any charity from his former employers. Everton were the better side in the match at Old Trafford earlier this season and have not lost back-to-back matches under Martinez’s command. They are the most likely victors on Sunday.
- Back Everton to win @ best odds of 6/4 with Bet365, Betfred or William Hill.
- United have been very open from kickoff on their travels this season, with 27 goals (16 for; 11 against) scored in the first half of their 17 away matches to date. Everton are not always quick starters at home, but began sharply in their recent 3-0 win over Arsenal and could do so again here. Back over 1.5 first half goals @ best odds of 2/1 with William Hill.