In the wake of one of the most bizarre games of football in the club’s top-flight history, West Brom will be desperate to string together back-to-back home wins against the visiting Toffees.
Albion’s gutsy, if a little fortunate, 1-0 victory over Brighton on Saturday afternoon reflected their noticeable improvement in form since the introduction of their January signings to the first team.
Snodgrass, Diagne, Maitland-Niles and particularly Yokuslu have been brilliant in their efforts to rescue a relegation-doomed side, but if Albion are to pull off the greatest of escapes, they will first need to pull off a big upset versus a dangerous Everton side.
The legendary Carlo Ancelotti will be keen to build on his team’s last away performance; an historic 2-0 win over the current champions at Anfield. That performance, the club’s first away win against their bitter rivals this century, will undoubtedly be a massive confidence boost for their squad who will be fighting tooth and nail to secure European football next season.
Here’s an overview of our opponents: Everton.
Ancelotti’s attacking success this season has revolved around his talented playmakers creating high quality chances for the strikers to convert rather than creating a high quantity of chances. Everton rank 15th for shots per 90 minutes but lead the league in xG per shot (i.e. quality of the chance).
When he’s fit, James Rodriguez is the creator-in-chief for Everton. The Colombian ranks 8th in the league in his debut season for both assists and key passes per 90 minutes but he also boasts five goals this campaign to add to his four assists. Nine goal involvements in 16 matches is not a record to be sniffed at.
From one cultured left foot to another, wing-back Lucas Digne is a crucial part of Everton’s overall game. He’s defensively sound but more importantly, like Rodriguez, Digne has great quality. His six assists in the league are only matched by one other defender – West Ham’s Aaron Cresswell. Digne’s assisting exploits are even more impressive given Cresswell has played almost 1,000 more minutes than Digne in the league this season.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin, as Albion fans will remember, is the dominant, athletic target man that latches on to the quality chances provided by the likes of Digne and Rodriguez. The England international decimated the Baggies’ defence back in September with a well-taken hat trick and the 23-year-old has since kicked on, amassing an impressive 13 goals. No one has scored more goals than Calvert-Lewin from open play this season. He’s clinical, he’s aggressive and he’s physical; the battle between Calvert-Lewin and an in-form Kyle Bartley will certainly be one to watch out for on Thursday evening.
Another Everton attacking option to be wary of is the supremely talented Richarlison. Deployed mainly as a winger this year, Richarlison has not reached the same scoring heights of last season. However, three goals in his last three games against Manchester City, Liverpool and Southampton suggests he’s hitting his best form at just the wrong time for Albion. The former Watford attacker also has a goal and three assists in three appearances against the Baggies.
In defence, Michael Keane and Ben Godfrey are developing nicely as Ancelotti’s first choice centre back pairing, but the midfield duo of Abdoulaye Doucoure and the Allan could dominate proceedings at The Hawthorns if Albion’s own dynamic central midfielders Gallagher, Maitland-Niles and Yokuslu can’t be disruptive, break up opposition attacks and spring some counter attacks of their own.
After Everton’s 1-0 home win against Southampton they find themselves 7th in the table and level on points with their Merseyside rivals who have a superior goal difference. However, if Everton were to beat Albion on Thursday they could climb in to the Champions League places if other results go their way.
Despite picking up three invaluable points on Saturday, West Brom remain in 19th. That said, an unlikely win against Everton would narrow the gap to safety to six points. The following game could therefore be season defining; a home fixture against 17th placed Newcastle.
It’s far too soon to dream but back-to-back wins versus Everton and Newcastle could leave us only three points off safety. There’s still a chance, albeit a very slim one, that Allardyce could pull this off.
The reverse fixture was the second game of Albion’s season and a sobering wake up call. The 5-2 hammering was largely due to Gibbs’ petulant red card at the end of the first half, although fans will have fond memories of Pereira’s spectacular, Brunt-esque free kick which followed Diangana’s superb solo strike but West Brom were no match for the Toffees on the day.
West Brom’s record versus Everton in recent years has been poor. The last five meetings have seen Albion draw twice and lose the remaining three. Everton also outscored us eleven goals to four in that period.
For our last victory over the Evertonians at B71 you would need to go back nine years for a 2-0 win. Second half goals from Shane Long and Gareth MacAuley sank David Moyes’ men as West Brom, under Steve Clarke, made their best start to a Premier League season ever.
Regarding more recent form, Everton have an imperious record away from Goodison Park. They are unbeaten in their last nine away games having notched up seven wins in that run. Meanwhile Everton’s last six league defeats have all come at home: an away trip suits Ancelotti’s men.
Thursday evening’s game should be a great challenge for Albion as Allardyce takes on his former employers. Everton will be big favourites for the contest, but the Baggies’ are unbeaten in their last three and are playing their best football just at the right time. You never know what might happen in the Premier League though – especially when you’re fighting for survival.