Everton know that a win against West Brom is a must if they are to continue their hot pursuit of arch-rivals Liverpool for the last Champions League spot, and while they’ve coped well in the one match since Ross Barkley’s injury, cannot afford too much experimentation.
Roberto Martinez should therefore ditch Leon Osman, who deputised for the injured Barkley in behind Romelu Lukaku last time out, and bring in new signing Aiden McGeady in order to seal the three points, which the Toffees are 21/20 to claim.
Owning the joint-best defensive unit in the Premier League, Martinez won’t have to ponder too long on who should fill the back-five spots in his side, although Sylvain Distin’s injury should see young John Stones continue in the XI.
Similarly, the two central midfielders are enjoying stellar seasons in Toffee blue, with Gareth Barry partnering James McCarthy with great success.
With a lack of alternatives, Belgian brute Lukaku will hunt his 10th league goal up front. However, the tough decisions lie in the three players who will cover the blades of grass in behind the striker, with Osman given Barkley’s number 10 role against Norwich to little effect.
Martinez has talked about letting Kevin Mirallas loose through the middle of the pitch, but it would be wise to resist that temptation considering how effective the winger is in his usual position from the right.
His lack of passing acumen – his 21.3 average passes per game is the 15th most in the Everton squad – means he won’t be as effective as Steven Pienaar in the hole, while leaving Mirallas out wide also allows the Toffees to capitalise on his pin-point crossing.
Moving the diminutive South African inside one position also frees up a space for McGeady to come into the lineup to give Everton fans a first look at his talents.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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