Can Everton keep the upswing going after winning last weekend? They are still in fourth place and travel to Reading on Saturday, who are struggling in eighteenth. What should we expect?
Reading are yet to win a game this season, but in the seven games they have scored at least a goal in, they have scored first in five. Everton have conceded first in their six straight games. With that in mind, Saturday's trip to the Madejski for the Toffees seems a perfect recipe for disaster, and a story the fans know all too well - the home team scores early, Everton dominates the possession and peppers the goal with shots, during the second half they somehow tie the game despite the home side having parked the bus around the eighteen yard line, and then Everton fading out and settling for the draw as the hosts attempt to win the game.
David Moyes' challenge this weekend will be to ensure that his side's defensive frailties don't rear their ugly head once again while trying to ensure that they convert their territorial domination and ball possession into goals. For his counterpart Brian McDermott the task at hand is much simpler - find a way to win a game. In the 2010-11 FA Cup, the Royals had frustrated Everton and stolen a 1-0 win at Goodison, and McDermott is going to be seeking more of the same on Saturday from his boys.
Team News -
Kevin Mirallas' injury is not a long-term one, but he will miss the game this weekend. In addition, Victor Anichebe and Tony Hibbert will face late fitness tests but look doubtful while Darron Gibson is definitely out and will miss yet another game. It is likely that the Leon Osman - Phil Neville pairing in the middle gets another chance with Steve Naismith slotting in for Mirallas.
Keys To The Game -
Control the ball, defend well from crosses and setpieces, and score first. Really couldn't put it more simply than that. Last week we saw Everton finally manage to break Sunderland down after Marouane Fellaini started to come deeper to pick up the ball, and that might be needed tomorrow too. Osman and Seamus Coleman had excellent showings midweek for England and Republic of Ireland respectively, and will be hoping for more of the same. Steven Pienaar has been anonymous lately by his high standards, while Nikica Jelavic will be glad to have broken his goal slump against Sunderland last week. Everton will need good performances from the both as well.
Reading are winless in their last seven games in all competitions, and have managed six draws in ten Premier League games. They can definitely play some attacking football, as witnessed in their 3-3 comeback draw against Fulham and 5-7 loss against Arsenal in the Capital One Cup, but have struggled to impose themselves in games for sustained periods. They will be looking to harry Everton off the ball, and sting them on the counterattack with the long ball. Jason Roberts is a wily Premier League veteran while Pavel Pogrebnyak and Hal Robson-Kanu are capable of popping up with goals too.
Match Facts -
- The two sides have only played eight times in history, with Everton winning five and losing twice.
- Everton have conceded first in six straight games but have lost none of those - a Premiership record.
- The Toffees have lost only one of their last eleven away games, with 3 wins and 7 draws.
- Leighton Baines has created the most goalscoring chances (47) of any player in Europe's top leagues.
- Reading have had eight different scorers this season, contributing to their twelve total goals.
- The Royals average 23.3 crosses a game, highest in the Premier League.