This weekend sees Everton take on Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium. In their previous match back in September, Everton won 3-1. Romelu Lukaku, Gareth Barry, and Seamus Coleman scored for Everton, while Maarten Stekelenburg had an own goal. The own goal was controversial, as it appeared Stekelenburg had the ball in his hands. However, the referee ruled Stekelenburg didn’t have control of the ball. This match was also Gareth Barry’s 600th Premier League appearance.
Currently, Everton are in 7th place, while Middlesbrough are in 15th place , one point above the relegation zone. Everton will be missing Muhamed Bešić and Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Middlesbrough will be missing Antonio Barragán. Barragan made 14 appearances for Middlesbrough this year, while Bešić has made none and Calvert-Lewin has made four.
Three Players to Watch
Ademola Lookman made his first start in the Premier League against Bournemouth last weekend. Lookman had two shots, 96% pass accuracy, 41 touches, and some really nifty skill moves. Since joining Everton in January from Charlton Athletic, he has also made three substitute appearances. Lookman even scored in his cameo debut, Everton’s 4-0 victory against Manchester City.
When he arrived, most people believed he would play with the U23s and gradually be integrated to the first team. In contrast, Lookman impressed Ronald Koeman so much that he decided to elevate him to the first team quickly. He has quickly become integral to the first team. If he starts this week, Koeman will look to him to make another impact performance. Lookman can support Romelu Lukaku and surge forward on the counterattack.
Spanish striker Álvaro Negredo is Middlesbroughs top scorer this season. He has six goals in 23 appearances on loan from Valencia. He also four assists and two man of the match awards. Clearly, he is a very important piece in this side, and if Everton are able to shut him down Middlesborugh’s attack will struggle tremendously. Negredo is a Premier League veteran, having spent 2013-2015 with Manchester City before returning to Spain. He is very strong in the air, and likes to play long balls. Since Barragan is missing, expect Everton’s defence to focus on Negredo.
Whoever Starts in Everton’s Midfield
Everton are very fortunate to have many strong defensive and box-to-box midfielders. James McCarthy, Gareth Barry, Tom Davies, Morgan Schneiderlin, and Idrissa Gueye all bring different attributes to the squad. That said, Koeman needs to be very careful who he selects in order to defeat Middlesbrough. The selected midfield pair, or trio, could swing the game in favor of Everton.
Koemans ideal choice would probably be the combination of Idrissa Gueye and Morgan Schneiderlin because they have been two of the top Premier League defensive midfielders in the past couple of years. He needs someone who can shield the defense and break up counterattacks (Gueye), and someone who can lead the attack forward (Schneiderlin).This would be Gueye’s first appearance since returning from the African Cup of Nations. With Schneiderlin only moving to Everton from Manchester United in January, Koeman finally has the chance to see how they work as a midfield partnership.
Everton will expect to win this game, especially if they want to make a push for Europe. While Middlesbrough aren’t as strong a side as the Toffees, they have shown, however, that they are capable of occasionally upsetting the odds. This can be typified by both of their visits to Manchester this season. Only two late goals from Manchester United prevented Boro winning at Old Trafford in December. They also snatched a late equaliser at the Etihad against Manchester City earlier in the campaign. These results alone show that they are not to be underestimated. While Everton will no doubt be favourites, Koeman will not be taking them lightly