Everton will ring in the New Year with a tough game against West Ham at Goodison Park on Friday.
The Toffees were due to play two games this week, but a COVID-19 outbreak in the Manchester City bubble has meant their Monday game has been postponed, giving Carlo Ancelotti’s side a decent rest before a visit from West Ham .
The Hammers, however, last played Tuesday night and head to Goodison Park with just 72 hours of respite as game congestion continues to pose a threat.
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A victory for Everton would keep the rather surprising top four prospects alive by 2021, especially since they have yet to play at City following Monday’s postponement. For West Ham, it’s a chance for them to have a decent start to the season and stay in the top half of the table.
When does the kick-off take place? Friday January 1
What time is the kick-off? 5:30 p.m. (GMT)
Where is it played? Goodison park
TV channel / live broadcast? BT Sport 1
Arbitrator? Kevin friend
Summer signing James Rodriguez will not be available against West Ham due to injury, but Carlo Ancelotti will be hoping the Colombian will be back for his FA Cup fixture against Rotherham on January 9.
Richarlison is available again after recovering after being kidnapped against Manchester United under concussion protocol. Allan and Lucas Digne, however, remain unavailable for the Toffees. The former is expected to do so by the end of January, while the latter prepares for a return to training after an ankle ligament injury.
For visitors, David Moyes is right without Arthur Masuaku for the trip to Merseyside following knee surgery. The 27-year-old is expected to return later in January.
Michail Antonio has returned to the pitch as a late substitute against Southampton, but Moyes has expressed caution about returning to the side.
Everton: Pickford; Holgate, Mina, Keane, Godfrey; Doucoure, Davies; Iwobi, Sigurdsson, Richarlison; Calvert-Lewin.
West Ham: Fabianski; Coufal, Dawson, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Rice; Bowen, Lanzini, Soucek, Fornals; Haller.
The Toffees have racked up impressive league wins despite their exit from the Carabao Cup at Manchester United last week.
A fierce three-point fight at Sheffield United on Boxing Day was Everton’s fourth consecutive league win – a race that includes wins over Arsenal, Leicester and Chelsea.
And while Rodriguez is not ideal, Gylfi Sigurdsson stepped up in his absence, scoring the winner against the Blades. Dominic Calvert-Lewin is also still impressive and remains on the hunt for the Premier League golden shoe; his 11 strikes left him co-second and behind only Mohamed Salah.
On the other hand, the race has been a bit hectic for West Ham. Moyes’ side have lacked creativity in recent weeks and despite coming back from behind twice against Brighton, they should have started the game much better. It was a similar story against Southampton this week, where the hosts had the best chance of winning the game.
Here’s how each team has performed in their last five games.
Sheffield United 0-1 Everton (26/12)
Everton 0-2 Manchester United (23/12)
Everton 2-1 Arsenal (19/12)
Leicester 0-2 Everton (16/12)
Everton 1-0 Chelsea (12/12)
Southampton 0-0 West Ham (12/29)
West Ham 2-2 Brighton (27/12)
Chelsea 3-0 West Ham (21/12)
West Ham 1-1 Crystal Palace (16/12)
Leeds United 1-2 West Ham (11/12)
Everton will no doubt be frustrated that their game against Manchester ity has been postponed knowing they were going to have fans in attendance and face the Citizens while they were in a hot streak.
The rest will prove to be vital, however. At a time when clubs are playing games with no way to end, Everton having a few extra days to prepare can only do them good.
West Ham still lack that creative touch on offense and seem more focused on not losing any games right now, but preparing for that with tired legs against a resting team will prove too much.
Prediction: Everton 2-1 West Ham