After a brief international break, club football makes an exciting return as the battles in the Premier League resume this weekend. The league returns with some thrilling fixtures for the fans, as we enter the business end of the season. With just about 8 games left to play, the race for top 4, relegation and the title itself is heating up with no clear winner emerging yet. This weekend brings to us the top 4 hopefuls West Ham United who welcome relegation-threatened Everton at home.
West Ham United started the season brilliantly and looked certain top 4 contenders as Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur had poor starts to the season. It left a clear path for the Hammers to get the 4th spot and a place in next season’s Champions League. However, as injuries and fixture congestion due to Europa League commitments entered the fray, West Ham’s form in the league trailed off and that meant United, Arsenal and Spurs could catch up to the Irons. However, no one can fault the efforts put in by manager David Moyes and his men, with injuries playing a massive role in their loss of form. They took some major hits in the games leading up to the international break, as the Irons managed to win just 2 of their last 5 games. They were last in action against fellow London and top 4 rivals Tottenham Hotspurs, as they lost 3-1 away from home. That loss meant the Irons are now in 7th place with 48 points, 6 points behind 4th placed Arsenal who still have two games in hand over West Ham.
Everton, like West Ham, started the season at a decent pace, winning 3 and drawing one of their first 4 games. However, the then manager Rafa Benitez could not keep up the same momentum as the Toffees then went on to lose 7 and draw two of the next 11 games, pushing them down the table and towards the relegation zone. That was followed by a change in regime, as Rafa Benitez made way for former Chelsea manager Frank Lampard. Lampard has been in charge for seven league games, winning just two of them. The mood around the club is that of gloom, and although they have three games in hand, the is a real possibility of the Toffees getting relegated if their form does not improve. The club have made some star signings to back Lampard in the January window, with Dutch midfielder Donny van de Beek signing on loan from Manchester United and Dele Alli signing on a permanent deal from Tottenham Hotspurs. However, the signings have not worked out as well as they had hoped, and Lampard will hope that they hit the ground running from Sunday onwards. It is a must-win game for the Toffees as they sit in 17th and just 3 points from the relegation zone.
WHEN AND WHERE?
Date: Sunday, 3rd April 2022.
Time: 1.00 pm BST
Venue: London Stadium, London.
Referee: Michael Oliver.
Assistants: Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett.
Fourth official: David Coote.
VAR: Andy Madley.
Assistant VAR: Nick Hopton.
There are a few doubtful in the West Ham United squad, with Jarrod Bowen and Vladimir Coufal close to making a return to action after a brief time on the sidelines. Bowen suffered a heel injury against Liverpool in early March and has been out of action ever since. Coufal underwent a hernia operation back in February and is now set to return back to the squad. Manager David Moyes was hopeful that both could return to the squad against Everton but was confident that both will have a crucial part to play in the remaining games. Bowen and Coufal will both have to undergo a fitness test before Everton’s visit and it remains to see if they are match-fit. Manuel Lazini suffered a horrible car crash on Thursday, but escaped unscathed and returned to training, and will be available for selection. Angelo Ogbonna suffered an Anterior Crucial Ligament injury and will miss the game. Arthur Masuaku is nursing a knee injury and is doubtful for the game.
Everton manager Frank Lampard has stated that striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin is closing in on a return to the full action, after putting in some positive training sessions during the international break. However, he will be without a few players for the Toffees’ trip to the capital. Fabian Delph has a thigh injury which will see him miss out along with Andros Townsend, defender Yerry Mina and midfielder Tom Davies. Brazilian midfielder Allan has a three-game suspension after receiving a straight red card in the game against Newcastle United. He has to miss two more games, along with Jonjoe Kenny who also has a suspension. Man United loanee Donny van de Beek is set to return to the squad after missing out the last few games with an illness.
The international break could not have come sooner for the Hammers. West Ham looked fatigued and tired in their last game against Tottenham Hotspur, as Spurs dominated the game to win 3-1. The international break would have provided the players with some respite, and Moyes will hope his men are fully fit and ready to go again, as they enter the most important part of their season. David Moyes’ side are still in the mix for the top 4, but also have to deal with the Europa League quarter-finals which take place on Thursday. They face French club Lyon in the first leg at home, knowing that they have a real chance at winning the Europa League and booking a place in the Champions League, and also winning their first major trophy since 1980. However, Moyes will have to rotate his squad accordingly and that could play into Everton’s hands.
Everton have not won an away game since Frank Lampard took charge, and with the walls closing down on the Toffees, it is time for them to come out fighting. Lampard will have to rally his troops to avoid relegation and to survive in the Premier League. The Toffees have one of the worst defenses in the league, with only Norwich City, Leeds United and Newcastle conceding more goals than Everton. They have conceded 11 goals in their last six games, scoring only 3 in return. Without a few key players, the task will be even tougher to keep out a West Ham side who can really hurt the opposition when afforded the time or space. The Hammers have some brilliant individuals who can create spaces and finish chances clinically, and Lampard will hope that his players can close down the West Ham players whenever they are on the ball. The Toffees will be boosted by the return of Dominic Calvert-Lewin- if passed fit to play- and will hope his return can add an extra attacking edge to their team. Players like Donny van de Beek and Dele Alli are very good on the ball and can create chances for Everton, but will need the others to step up as well. It is all to play for the Toffees, and a win will see their chances of survival increase massively.
The English holding midfielder has been continually drawing praises by his consistent performances. He plays in the heart of the West Ham United and England midfield and is indispensable to both. His ability to read the game and break up opposition play is exceptional and that has quickly furthered his reputation as one of the best midfielders in the Premier League. 23-year-old carries the ball up the pitch as well, and is known to have an odd goal in him. His passing range is excellent and alongside Tomas Soucek, they have combined to form a physically imposing central midfield two. Rice has been an integral part of the team that has risen from a relegation-threatened club to a genuine top 4 contender, and his style of play has drawn attention from the top European clubs, with many big clubs interested in his services for the future. He will be once again expected to dominate the midfield against a struggling Everton side.
The Brazilian has been Everton’s sole forward with star striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin struggling with injuries. Richarlison has had to shoulder the burden of scoring goals and linking up the attacking play almost solely with the absence of Calvert-Lewin. He has been going through a dry spell, with only 1 goal in his last 9 games, and manager Frank Lampard will be hoping that the 24-year-old can hit form as soon as possible. Everton are in a dire situation now and they need Richarlison to score as many goals as possible. He will be boosted by the return of his attacking partner, and Evertonians will hope they get to see the two link up again. West Ham United have a few issues in defence themselves, and Richarlison will be looking to get a sniff of the goal and end his goal drought on Sunday.
West Ham predicted XI: Lukasz Fabianski; Ben Johnson, Kurt Zouma, Craig Dawson, Aaron Cresswell; Tomas Soucek, Declan Rice; Pablo Fornals, Manuel Lanzini, Said Benrahma; Michail Antonio.
Everton predicted XI: Jordan Pickford; Seamus Coleman, Mason Holgate, Michael Keane, Ben Godfrey; Donny van de Beek, Abdoulaye Doucoure; Anthony Gordon, Dele Alli, Demarai Gray; Richarlison.