BOLTON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26: David Wheater of Bolton Wanderers is shown the red card by referee Michael Oliver while Everton defender Leighton Baines looks on. Everton won the game 2-0 at the Reebok Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Bolton, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
Goodison Park should be packed to the brim with the rafters rattling as the faithful welcome back Landon Donovan for his second stint as a Toffee. Much has been made of Donovan's arrival, and potentially saving the squad from mid-table mediocrity in a two month span. How manager David Moyes utilizes his set of skills remains to be seen. The players will be wearing black armbands in memory of defender Gary Ablett who passed away earlier this week.
Bolton Wanderers on the other hand are a club in crisis down at the bottom of the Premiership, and the news that they have already agreed a transfer fee with Chelsea for their biggest asset, defender Gary Cahill, will not fill the Trotters' fans with any good cheer in the new year.
The agenda for both sides should be pretty clear: Everton are at home against a basement-dwelling club and three points are mandatory, while Bolton are travelling to a club that has struggled at home and need every single point they can get. Expect every challenge to be met equally and no quarter given nor asked for. The last time the two clubs met just over a month ago was a close game that hinged on Bolton defender David Wheater being sent off for a two-footed lunge on Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, with Everton running out 2-0 winners after that.
Everton started off 2012 on a good note picking up the win at West Bromwich Albion. Moyes has already stated that he won't be rushing Victor Anichebe back to full-time duty as yet, despite his game-winning goal in that game. Bolton drew their game on New Year's Eve and then watched Blackburn leapfrog them with an upset over Manchester United. Manager Owen Coyle is under immense pressure to turn things around but has been struggling with many of the same issues Everton is plagued with - lack of transfer funds, lack of goals from the forwards and untimely injuries. Read the interview the Royal Blue Mersey had with Bolton blog Lion of Vienna Suite yesterday right here.
Moyes could be without three midfielders tomorrow - livewire Royston Drenthe missed Sunday's game with an illness, while Marouane Fellaini and Seamus Coleman are still injured. However, he will have Donovan available for selection.
Owen Coyle has said that team captain Cahill is "absolutely" a part of his plans for the game, but will have a bigger headache with the thigh injury that goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen picked up on Saturday. Midfielder Darren Pratley could be back in the squad as well if he recovers from the illness that kept him out of the previous game.
Keys To The Game
Moyes can afford to be aggressive here and should look to dominate the midfield, utilizing Donovan as the trequartista, à la Mikel Arteta. With either Johnny Heitinga or Phil Neville playing a defensive midfield role paired up with Jack Rodwell, Moyes can then use Leon Osman on the right and Magaye Gueye on the left. The key once again will be the striker position - Louis Saha sees more shots go the wrong side of the posts than not, Denis Stracqualursi doesn't look ready to play a full 90 minutes while Greek teenager Apostolos Vellios seems to have been in Moyes' doghouse for a while now.
Bolton will be relying on height once again to score, using the deadball situations to their benefit. Their big backline does a good job cutting out crosses and will look to maintain that. Forwards David Ngog and Ivan Klasnic have not combined well so far and will require the ball played into space to run onto. Kevin Davies can be a real terror around the area and Everton will do well not to give him space to shoot.
- Everton have not scored a first half goal in their last seven games in the Premiership.
- Four of Everton's last six goals scored at home have come in the last ten minutes of games.
- There's been only two goals scored in each the last four games the two sides have played each other.
- Bolton have one clean sheet in their last thirty five Premier League away games.
- In their last twenty two away games, Botlon have 4 wins, 1 draw and 22 losses.