West Bromwich Albion — Everton (Premier League)
Roberto Martinez side visit The Hawthorns Monday night for the inauguration of Pepe Mel ahead of the Baggies. West Brom will be hoping the new manager kick-starts the rest of their Premier League in a different key. Everton have a chance to leapfrog both Liverpool and the Spurs to reach 4th place. The stakes are high rock-high.
This will be Pepe Mel, former Real Betis coach, first match as manager of West Brom Albion. Last week he joined the stands at St. Mary’s to see the Baggies fall 1-0 to Southampton. It was their first loss in five since caretaker manager Keith Downing picked up the slack. The Spaniard gaffer has work cut out for him in a club that have won just 2 of their last 12 ties in al competitions. And that in the next six weeks will have to go against such teams as Everton, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United. Bringing in a new boss usually results in a boost of energy, in the short run at least. Whether or not represents a consistently U-turn in the side’s performances and results only time will tell.
Shane Long transfer to Hull City will give Saido Berahino more action time on the pitch. Goran Popov (neck) is ruled out. Billy Jones underwent minor eye surgery and should remain out for at least one more week. Victor Anichebe (groin) and Sessègnon (nock) are in doubt for this one.
Probable line-up: Foster — Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell — Mulumbu, Yacob— Amalfitano, Brunt — Anelka, Berahino.
When David Moyes left for United Everton was expected to undergo a grieving period followed by a rebuilt. Supports were bracing themselves for it. Boberto Martínez impressed with a swift transition. That’s how the Spaniard rolls — no fuss, efficiently getting the job done. The pleasant surprise, and not only for Toffees fan’s, is a very tight, well-respected squad fighting for a European Spot week after week. The Merseyside has only two defeats in the Premier League this season — to Manchester City (3-1) and Sunderland (0-1) — and one more in the Capital One Cup to Fulham (2-1). They have built a reputation of being a hard side to beat. However, with injuries pilling up — Ross Barkley’s more than any other — they could start feeling serious difficulties in maintaining their performance levels.
Martínez has been a busy-bee in the January transfer window. He sold Nikica Jelavic to Hull City for £6.5m and already signed Aiden McGeady. He expects the former Spartak Moscow will allow him to play Kevin Mirallas in a more central role for the rest of the season. The Irish winger is travelling with the team to West Bromwich. The latest rumours say Everton are close to secure Monaco’s Lacina Traoré on loan. The decision is pending favourable result of a medical examination of the striker’s hamstring injury.
Darron Gibson, Antolin Alcaraz, Gerard Deulofeu, Ross Barkley and Arouna Koné all miss out due to injuries. Sylvain Distin could be in contention.
Probable line-up: Howard — Coleman, Jagielka, Stones, Baines — McCarthy, Barry — Mirallas, Osman, Pienaar — Lukaku.
West Brom is the Premier League team with the most draws (9) but Everton follows right behind them (8). The Mersey side have the best defence of the League, having conceded only 19 goals. They are also the least beaten. If everything goes according to plan the Toffees will come out with a win, unless Pepe Mel brings a new bag(gies) of tricks.