Sunday, 31 December 2017

Match preview: Everton v United

Depleted United welcome in 2018 with a difficult New Year's Day trip to in-form and rejuvenated Everton, looking to get back on track after three successive and frustrating draws over Christmas. The fixtures continue to come thick and fast as the Premier League season continues apace. This match on Merseyside kicks off at 5.30pm, only 48 hours after the full-time whistle against Southampton and sees the Reds in a fourth outing in eight days. 
The Reds slipped to third after that 0-0 draw with Saints on Saturday,  coupled with Chelsea's win over Stoke, whilst the hosts suffered their first defeat under new manager Sam Allardyce in a 2-1 defeat at Bournemouth. 

Romelu Lukaku became the latest victim of United's ever-lengthening injury list, after he was forced off on a stretcher against Southampton. He's set to miss two or three weeks and joins fellow striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick, Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly and Matteo Darmian on the sidelines. Ashley Young is set to begin a three-match ban having been charged with violent conduct by the FA for an incident against Saints. No fit full backs and no out-and-out striker - it's fair to say that Jose's resources are being stretched to the limit. 
 Lukaku may be ruled out of a first return to his old club, but Wayne Rooney is set to feature against United for the second time since he re-signed for the Toffees, with Morgan Schneiderlin and Michael Keane to do likewise. Leighton Baines, Maarten Stekelenburg, Ross Barkley, Ramiro Funes Mori and Seamus Coleman will all miss out. United won the previous meeting 
4-0 at OT back in September with goals from Valencia, Lukaku, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and an Anthony Martial penalty. 

Everton were glancing nervously over their shoulders towards the bottom three when Allardyce took charge earlier this month, but have enjoyed a "new manager bounce" to rise up the table under the much-travelled and vastly experienced boss. The Cherries ended their seven-match unbeaten run, but Everton have climbed into the top half and come into this one in ninth place. 

Jose said: "Zlatan is one month out, of course you miss your striker and we are without Romelu (Lukaku) now also. You only have two attacking players for the next game, Anthony (Martial) and Rashford so that's difficult. I am happy with the players attitude and desires, there is no complaint about my players. There are many games in a quick time, so we cannot think about the last result, you move on to the next one and go one match at a time." 

Form guide: Everton D W W D D L United W W L D D D 
Match odds: Everton 9/2 Draw 5/2 United 8/11
Referee: Andre Marriner (West Midlands)

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