Monday's Premier League game sees two teams desperate to climb the table, but ull of fear at what lies below. Our capper has the task of looking at the betting to find the best odds for his free picks in what could be a cagey game.
The Monday Premier League game pits two sides within three points of the relegation zone, as I write this ahead of the weekend’s games, so by the time they kick off they could be a lot closer. Perhaps you won’t be surprised to know one of those is West Brom, but the fact Everton are so close to the bottom three by mid-January is definitely a shock. These two teams have won seven games between them in 30.
I’ve been watching Roberto Martinez’ team closely over the last few weeks, wondering when exactly they would improve and the answer is they are, but slowly. The first sign for me was the fact they were getting back into games. First in the game against West Ham in the FA Cup when Romalu Lukaku equalised in stoppage time, then against champions Manchester City and then again against the Hammers in the replay. The character is there, the desire is there and the confidence is creeping back through the team.
Adrian Clarke’s excellent article on www.premierleague.com examines the Merseyside club’s problems in great detail. An ageing squad, change in formation and lack of form are all cited, but the thing that has hurt them most and is a consequence of all three in my opinion are the unforced errors.
“The concession of soft goals has been an unwelcome habit that has plagued Everton. Injury problems for John Stones, Sylvain Distin, and James McCarthy have created defensive instability of sorts, but even so it does not excuse the excessive tally of individual mistakes committed at key moments.
Leading the Barclays Premier League in this statistic, Everton have gifted almost double the number of goals to opponents than in the entirety of 2013/14.
It is hard to pin this negative trend on one aspect of their play, but Everton do not seem to have played at quite the same tempo this season, which has not helped. Their success in recent years has been built around an energetic hard-working approach, but out of possession they have lacked the same kind of intensity in 2014/15.
A by-product of this is that they have given opponents too much time and space to put the ball into dangerous areas. Martinez’s side let in 31 goals from inside the 18-yard-box last season. With 17 matches to go this season they are just one shy of that, on 30 as it stands.
To stop the rot, they must collectively concentrate on stopping rival teams feeding so many passes and crosses into their penalty area.”
The Baggies may be an opportune opponent for Everton, because it’s hard to imagine Tony Pulis’ side going for goals and attacking their hosts. It will be a solid, disciplined approach trying to hit on the break relying on the clinical finishing of Saido Berahino to grab them a goal to hang on to.
It’s not like they were spilling goals week in week out under the previous manager, but there was no consistency in result or performance. When Pulis took over at Crystal Palace, he won his first away game 1-0 at Hull City and they only conceded 3 goals in their first four under his management, with two of those coming at Chelsea.
I expect a similar record at West Brom and expect this to be a tight, low scoring game with Everton conscious of not losing, more than winning.
In a game of few chances, if my thoughts are correct, I expect two talented young strikers to have the best opportunities to score in what could be the most profitable market for those looking to make their soccer picks on this game. Lukaku and Berahino are both coming back into form with the Belgian hitting two in three and the Brit scoring five in his last three (including a hat-trick against non-league Gateshead).
Soccer odds price Lukaku at 9/5 and Berahino is as big as 13/5, which despite most of his goals coming at home, I can’t refuse given Everton’s inability to keep clean sheets at home of late.
Free soccer pick: Saido Berahino to score anytime 13/5