A potential thriller is on the cards this weekend as Everton host a resurgent Manchester United at the Goodison Park on Sunday.
Following a rather slow start to the season, Everton sacked underperforming coach Marco Silva and replaced him with the critically acclaimed and proven tactician Carlo Ancelotti to steady the ship and steer them out of the murky relegation waters.
The Toffees were flirting with and teetering just above the relegation zone before he came in. Fast forward and they are now making a push for a top 6 finish, a sight that their fanbase would savor right now after being in the cold since their glory days under David Moyes.
Last Sunday’s 3-2 loss to Arsenal was a minor setback in their overall revival strategy. That said, there were a lot of positives to be drawn from that game. They had 17 attempts on goal, almost twice as many as their hosts. Strike duo Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison both scored to continue their brilliant partnership and the team generally went toe-to-toe with Arsenal in a game they would very well have won especially if Calvert-Lewin was a bit more clinical with the chances that came his way. Had Sunday’s result gone differently, Everton would for sure be in the conversation as one of the favorites for that lucrative 5th spot – one that could potentially be a Champions League slot should Man City’s appeal against their ban be unsuccessful.
Ancelotti has been able to return to his preferred 4-4-2 formation with Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott putting up some of their best performances this season under his set-up. Ancelotti’s ability to adopt hhis approach to suit the players at his disposal has always been one of his key strengths that sets him apart as an all time great manager. His CV speaks for itself from his travels across Europe.
Everton are unbeaten at home under him. The next three weeks presents to them a true litmus test of the the new regime’s tactics and their broader aspirations for European football. Following Man United’s game, they have tricky fixtures against Chelsea and Liverpool in the horizon.
They got an injury boost with the return of Andre Gomes. Theo Walcott and Lucas Digne both missed the Arsenal game with knocks but should be fit for selection.
Like their opponents, the Red Devils are also undergoing a change of fortunes. The only difference being their revival has been heralded by the arrival of a new player, rather than a coach. January signing Bruno Fernandes has been a revelation to the club. He has provided the spark in creativity in the midfield that they have lacked for so long and with the caliber of finishers at their disposal, it’s easy to see why they are suddenly dominating opponents and dispatching them with ease.
They have moved up to fifth on the table after back-to-back wins at Chelsea and at home to Watford. Fernandes put up man-of-the-match performances in both games. With him, United look refreshed, confident and reinvigorated. They now play with pace and force and are able to open up teams that sit deep – which until now has been their Achilles heel.
Against Club Brugge on Thursday night in the second leg of the round of 32 at Old Trafford, Fernandes was a menace during the stretch he was on the field. He wreaked havoc on the Brugge defence having a hand in all three goals that United scored with him on the pitch to take a commanding 3-0 lead. The fans will hope his sizzling start continues as they lock horns with Everton who are on a resurgence of their own.
Everton beat Man United 4-0 in the corresponding fixture to mark the lowest ebb of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tenure as United boss. The Norwegian has certainly never forgotten this, making references to it on more than one occasion in an effort to appeal for patience in his rebuild project.
With Rashford still out, Martial will continue leading the lines. He is in fine form with 6 goals in his last 10 including the delightful chip against Watford. He was a notable absentee against Club Brugge after pikcing up a knock in training on Wednesday evening. Should he fail to recover, January signing Ighalo, who opened his scoring account against Brugge will be on standby.
United’s injury issues have eased up in recent weeks with a return to fitness of key players like Eric Bailly, Scott McTominay and Luke Shaw. Star midfielder Paul Pogba is still sidelined with no timetable on a possible return date.
This game has all the makings of a thriller. Both teams are angling themselves for European place finishes in the league. The winner of this match put themselves in prime position to challenge Chelsea for the final top 4 slot, should Man City’s appeal be successful.
We expect an end-to end battle that should produce plenty of goals. For this reason our first betting tips here are BTTS @ 1.84 and Goals Over 2.5 @ 2.05. We also back Richarlison to continue his terrific form. He has a knack for scoring against the big boys. Richarlison to score Anytime is good value @ 2.75.
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