Everton may have made an inauspicious start to 2014-15 but with a quarter of the campaign gone, they're satisfactorily positioned four points off the top four with improving form, key players returning from injury and some of their rivals from last season's top seven teams struggling to find form.
As the top flight's only unbeaten side and already holding a six-point lead over reigning Champions, Manchester City, Chelsea have emerged as the overwhelming favourites for the title but it's the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham whom the Blues will have in their sights as they look to put together a string of victories that would propel them into the reckoning for the top four.
Expected but nonetheless important wins over Aston Villa and Burnley have lifted Roberto Martinez's team into the top half of the table for the first time since the opening day and they have the chance to make it three League wins on the bounce as Swansea City come to town.
Everton's long-standing historical domination of the Swans may have been broken in the Capital One Cup in September when the Welsh club beat the Toffees for the first time in history, but the League record remains intact — indeed, our 18-match unbeaten run over Swansea is a top-flight record.
History may be on Martinez's side as he takes on his old club but he will be able to take nothing for granted against Gary Monk's men who will start the day two points and three places better off, having made an impressive start to the season. They've only one won of their last six in the League, though, and have been showing signs of vulnerability in recent weeks which will hopefully bode well for Everton whose form has been improving.
With no cup distractions in midweek, Martinez can remain faithful to the side that started the 3-1 win at Turf Moor, although the apparent recurrence of Romelu Lukaku's toe problem may give the him pause when it comes to naming his starting XI. The Belgian has continued to train, his manager explained in his pre-match press conference that he doesn't foresee the complaint being a big issue and it may be a case of him starting and then coming off in the second half as he did last week.
If that is the case, the remaining question marks might be over which two start out of Samuel Eto'o, Ross Barkley, Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman. Eto'o had a superb outing against Burnley playing in the withdrawn role behind the front two, scoring two goals as Barkley started on the bench, while Osman played 82 minutes before making way for Pienaar. Perhaps with Lille's visit to L4 on Thursday in mind, Martinez might rotate the South African in and experiment with Barkley in the three up front with Lukaku and Eto'o and Naismith sitting out.
It's a nice selection dilemma to have and you feel that if the Blues can carry through their performances from the last two games, they should have enough to win. That's even allowing for the goalscoring form of Wilfried Bony — his two goals against Leicester last weekend took his tally to four in three games — who will need to be watched closely by the expected defensive pairing of Antolin Alcaraz and Phil Jagielka, while the defensive midfield axis of Gareth Barry and James McCarthy will need to shackle Gylfi Sigurdsson who has a penchant for assists and a knack for scoring goals from midfield.
Kick off: 3pm GMT
Referee: Kevin Friend
Quotes sourced from ToffeeWeb Match Reports
Reader Comments (67)
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1 Posted 31/10/2014 at 17:48:35
WeÂve a great record against them and they tend to struggle away from home. 3 points is a must here - every game is important, and we need to keep the momentum going.
2-0 Lukaku and Baines
2 Posted 31/10/2014 at 17:56:06
Hopefully we can impose ourselves on them and get an early goal, then go on to get 3 points
4 Posted 31/10/2014 at 18:01:01
I wonder whether a 4-3-3 would work, with Lukaku and EtoÂo up front, Barkley in behind and McCarthy, Besic and Barry able to dominate the midfield?
Normally I think playing with wingers suits us, but without Mirallas, I donÂt think we have the quality there. We do have quality centrally, all through midfield and forward lines.
5 Posted 31/10/2014 at 18:05:40
7 Posted 31/10/2014 at 18:11:27
Swans set up with one up top and have a few dangerous wingers (Montero, Dyer, Routledge) who could exploit any space left.
That being said, your formation would give them plenty to think about.
IÂd prefer Barkley in front of Barry and McCarthy, with Naisy in the hole. I think that is an area to be exploited tomorrow, and Barkley and Naismith can inter-change and prove very hard to pick up.
8 Posted 31/10/2014 at 18:26:43
9 Posted 31/10/2014 at 18:33:46
10 Posted 31/10/2014 at 18:59:09
11 Posted 31/10/2014 at 19:08:10
Howard, Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Barry, McCarthy, Barkley, Osman, Naismith and Eto'o.
I won't worry if Alcaraz starts instead of Distin but feel Distin is a better fit for the physical Bony. If Oviedo or Lukaku are healthy, than either one for Leon.
12 Posted 31/10/2014 at 19:18:35
13 Posted 31/10/2014 at 19:36:04
On a positive note, I would like to say that Everton, even though they do our heads in at times, honour loyal players while LFC look as if they are not even going to give SG a 1-year contract.
Pretty grim I know he always scores against us but he at times kept that team going. No price on loyalty then.
ps: I see in the Echo, Distin and Osman are likely to get new contracts in January. Thought that would send a few of you off!
14 Posted 31/10/2014 at 19:27:16
I would play:
Coleman Jagielka Alcaraz Baines
Astu Barkley Pienaar
I think Eto'o and Besic will be starting on Thursday.
16 Posted 31/10/2014 at 19:53:39
It's the central defensive partnership I'll be taking a keen interest in... Surely Alcaraz and Jags tomorrow?
We need to start racking up a few clean sheets. Clean sheets win prizes.
17 Posted 31/10/2014 at 21:16:12
18 Posted 31/10/2014 at 21:20:54
I found Mark Hughes's comments totally embarrassing. Let's see what happens when a player dives v Stoke.
19 Posted 31/10/2014 at 21:39:15
20 Posted 31/10/2014 at 22:05:30
21 Posted 31/10/2014 at 22:08:39
Midfield of McCarthy, Barry, and whoever RM thinks is in form.
Lukaku and Naisy up front.
22 Posted 31/10/2014 at 22:45:46
23 Posted 31/10/2014 at 22:48:18
I can see us taking all 3 points, fingers crossed.
24 Posted 31/10/2014 at 23:03:34
It will be very interesting to see the bench as that will indicate the available strength of the side. I hope that Oviedo and Besic both make the bench along with Osman. Those two can inject a little youth and pace to the team.
25 Posted 31/10/2014 at 23:14:27
3-1 to us. Let's pray McGeady does not feature.
Hope Besic does.
27 Posted 31/10/2014 at 23:34:44
Howard; Coleman, Alcaraz, Jagielka, Baines; Barry, McCarthy; Naismith, Eto'o, Barkley; Lukaku.
Subs: Robles, Distin, McGeady, Osman, Pienaar, Besic, Hibbert.
28 Posted 31/10/2014 at 23:38:39
After returning from Rio, Martinez noted that possession football teams were disrupted by high intensity, all action opposition, and that's the way he'd probably like to go against Swansea. A keeper plus 10 guys who will work their socks off for the team. I can think of about seven but then I get stuck.
29 Posted 01/11/2014 at 00:05:36
Tough game... could go right to the wire.
30 Posted 01/11/2014 at 00:11:48
31 Posted 01/11/2014 at 00:18:30
32 Posted 01/11/2014 at 00:23:26
Coleman. Jagielka. Alcaraz. Baines.
Besic. McCarthy. Barry.
Naismith. Barkley. Pienaar.
Subs: Robles, Hibbert, Distin, Atsu, McGeady, Eto'o, Osman.
33 Posted 01/11/2014 at 00:41:32
Unlikely I know but how about we go 4-3-2-1 with Coleman and Baines providing the width as ever:
Coleman Jagielka Alcaraz Baines
McCarthy Barry Besic
34 Posted 01/11/2014 at 01:03:22
Think it will be close with plenty of goals.
35 Posted 01/11/2014 at 01:39:41
The ref is a cause for concern. Always screws us. We need to win this go strong.
Coleman Jagielka Browning Baines
Barkley Naismith Pienaar
36 Posted 01/11/2014 at 02:15:11
That line-up looks quality but there’s no way Martinez is leaving out Naisy. Very effective in the EPL this year and, contrary to popular opinion on TW, I thought he had a very good game last week.
Naisy in for Besic, swap his role with Barkley.
37 Posted 01/11/2014 at 02:22:33
I think Pienaar still has a lot to offer the team, just not in the wide role. He no longer has the legs to help his full back and still be effective going forward.
I’d like to see him tried in a free playmaker role, possibly Europa league. Somewhere he can link up and split defences, without being physically played out of the game.
38 Posted 01/11/2014 at 03:02:56
I have to disagree with you again recently.
I wouldn't give McGeady an Echo to read, let alone a starting place.
We need to play our best available 11 as Swansea will not be the pushover Burnley and Villa were.
That said, I think we should get 3 points.
39 Posted 01/11/2014 at 06:56:02
40 Posted 01/11/2014 at 07:12:07
Depending on how bad Rom's toe is, I wouldn't be surprised to see Eto'o used sparingly with Lille coming up, that's when you want to put your CL winners medals on display.
Besic looks good but he's still a little raw for PL, all those needless fouls etc. same as a lot of players in the first season, Felly, Arteta, Pienaar all picked up disproportionate number of bookings in the first season as well. I think he will be continue to be used sparingly with an eye on replacing Barry next season if his legs fade.
Alcaraz has been good recently and he's comfortable on the ball, better distribution than Distin and so a more natural replacement for Stones so I expect he will keep his place. Distin just has to wait a few more matches before Alcaraz is injured anyway!
Last season we won this fixture thanks to 10 minutes after half time despite being the worse team for the other 80 minutes. The maligned Howard was the only reason we took 3 points that day. I hope we continue to see the clinical edge but put in a better shift and don't settle for being second to the breaking ball as it seems we were for much of the match last week.
41 Posted 01/11/2014 at 07:35:31
42 Posted 01/11/2014 at 07:46:30
43 Posted 01/11/2014 at 07:03:58
Jay. Yes, we have to go with our strongest side available,......whatever that is.
44 Posted 01/11/2014 at 08:03:42
45 Posted 01/11/2014 at 07:58:00
46 Posted 01/11/2014 at 08:07:48
47 Posted 01/11/2014 at 08:51:29
Colin I don't think you are far off the mark there and I'd probably be in agreement. The only possible change is Alcaraz for Distin maybe??? Worried about Bony running through us but we do have the fastest recorded player in Jags!!!!
I still feel we are lacking a genuine tricky playmaker and hopefully this will be rectified come January.
Barkley to open his goal scoring account today I think.
Swansea are a good good side and on their day can turn anyone over so we need to be right on it from the start today.
I was supposed to be working today so didn't get a ticket and not working now!! Arghh
3 points boys. 3 points.
48 Posted 01/11/2014 at 08:53:18
They seem to having mixed fortunes, as far as results have gone, but are capable of beating anyone on their day, hence the need for caution.
Hope to see Sammy produce some more classy play, what a gem we have in him!
49 Posted 01/11/2014 at 08:47:39
50 Posted 01/11/2014 at 09:07:01
Mcgeady might just make the bench, if he can find it.
Naismith has to start been our best player so far this season, super work rate and knows where the goal is.
Today will show us if we are really back on form as Swansea are a good team
and play some fast attacking football. wont be pushovers like Villa and Burnley.
A close match 2-1 to the blues,
51 Posted 01/11/2014 at 09:17:15
I think Pienaar has to start on the left. Baines/Pienaar is still extremely potent and has plenty of legs in it yet. So that's Osman out from the Burnley game. I don't like Naismith shoved out wide, but he deserves to start and with Coleman in the side it works okay, so he can keep his place. This leaves a choice between Barkley and Eto'o (assuming Lukaku is fit). I'd actually start Barkley, as I think he struggles to pick up the pace of the game as a sub whereas Eto'o seems like he'll cope with any role and any situation. He certainly has the experience.
This feels to me like a must-win game psychologically. Make it three league wins on the trot and the idea that we win home games as a matter of routine and the season will finally have started.
52 Posted 01/11/2014 at 09:27:10
Mr Glasser, this week I challenge you ??
Everton vs Swansea. 3-1
Palace vs Sunderland. 2-0
Villa vs Spurs. 1-2
Man City vs Man united. 2-2
Newcastle vs Liverpool. 1-3
Arsenal vs Burnley. 6-0
Chelsea vs QPR. 3-0
Hull vs Southampton 1-2
Leicester vs West Brom. 1-1
Stoke vs West Ham. 1-2
53 Posted 01/11/2014 at 09:29:21
The problem we have is that Lukaku, Eto'o, Barkley and Naismith all operate better in central positions but, in RMs preferred set-up, only two can play in these positions.
So who best to start with and who would be better coming from the bench; over to you, Roberto.
54 Posted 01/11/2014 at 10:04:08
55 Posted 01/11/2014 at 10:13:06
56 Posted 01/11/2014 at 10:50:11
57 Posted 01/11/2014 at 11:00:26
58 Posted 01/11/2014 at 10:07:57
Improving form, home advantage Â– yes, but we still have injury (?) / fitness concerns & yet another unfamiliar ground. (After our recent road trips, Goodison Park must be like a new sighting!!) ;-)
59 Posted 01/11/2014 at 11:16:08
60 Posted 01/11/2014 at 11:20:53
Barkley may not be match fit, ditto Coleman, and Besic deserves some game time. Maybe Atsu does, too.Keeping things fresh is getting more important with mid week matches.
Depending on the scoreline, I would also like some younger players getting off the bench. We may need these lads later in the season so give them some experience. One of Moyes's biggest faults was the 80th minute substitution, a move that was usually long overdue.
61 Posted 01/11/2014 at 10:55:37
Coleman - Jags - Alcaraz - Baines
McCarthy - Barry
Naismith - Barkley - Pienaar
Subs: McGeady, Eto'o, Atsu, Besic, Distin (look to bring some of the first 3 on if we get ahead). In an ideal world I'd start with Mirallas obv on right, or if in-form McGeady.
62 Posted 01/11/2014 at 11:56:37
It's then one of Barkley or Eto'o and one of Osman or Pienaar.
I suspect Barkley and Osman which is the same side that started against Villa.
63 Posted 01/11/2014 at 12:03:49
This is combined with a generally poor use of the squad in general, with some players playing pretty much every minute and others hardly used at all.
Maybe the players being over-used now will get a week or two off, and the ones hardly being used now will come into their own later on. It seems to me like people are going stale on the sidelines though.
64 Posted 01/11/2014 at 12:28:13
On a separate note, just watched Pelle interviewed on football focus.... Impressive chap with no noticeable ego.... Him and Lukaku next year?
65 Posted 01/11/2014 at 12:36:55
Eto'o starting to me is a real need when Mirallas isn't available.
66 Posted 01/11/2014 at 12:30:04
Will RM never listen? :-)
3-1 (Rom 31, Nace 63, Rom 80)
67 Posted 01/11/2014 at 13:16:38
69 Posted 01/11/2014 at 13:17:25
70 Posted 01/11/2014 at 13:20:57
Have been rooting for him this season and still think he has much to offer but I hope Mcgeady is not starting and have to say the same for Ossie. Happy for Ossie to come on with 30 to play but the more tired he gets the more often he loses posession.
I think Etoo showed against Burnley he has the skills and touch to be out playmaker in the hole. He can receive the ball with men around him and keep hold of it. He can pass it, dribble and shoot. So can Barkley on a good day but I think Sam's decision making is definitely superior. The trouble is does that mean moving Barkley and Naismith out wide where they are arguably less effective?
I do think Pienaar and Etoo would work well together and Nais' work rate is needed against posession sides like Swansea. So maybe Barkley comes off the bench?
71 Posted 01/11/2014 at 14:04:29
72 Posted 01/11/2014 at 13:56:19
Not sure about playing Atsu so he can 'come into form' as he's not our player is he? It's either now or never for him I think.
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