West Brom-Everton Preview
LONDON (SE) - Two top-half teams with European aspirations meet at Goodison Park on Wednesday evening, when Everton host West Bromwich Albion.
Four points separate the Toffees in fifth and West Brom in eighth, but both remain very much in the mix for the European qualification places with just 15 games remaining.
David Moyes' Everton (9-11-3) go into the latest round of matches above Arsenal and Liverpool in the table and just three points behind Tottenham Hotspur in the fourth Champions League place. However, the Toffees have won just one of their last four league games, and will be hoping that their FA Cup fourth-round win at Bolton on Saturday will prove a turning point.
"It's not easy to play FA Cup games, especially away, and we won, so that's the most important thing," said Jonny Heitinga, who scored the winner on Saturday. "We don't have to play a replay and we can focus on the game against West Brom.
"It's important because we're fighting for a place in Europe and you must play game by game, and the next one is always important. If you want to play in Europe, you need to win the game against West Bromwich."
Visitors West Brom (10-4-9) enjoyed a terrific start to the season, but have won just two of their last 10 league games. A 2-2 draw with Aston Villa in their last Premier League game earned the Baggies their first point of 2013, and manager Steve Clarke is hopeful the Villa result will spark a recovery for his side.
"It was important for us to stop the run of defeats - three in a row was the most we've had in the Premier League this season," said Clarke. "Both times (it also happened before Christmas), we've managed to stop it with a draw. Now we have to start trying to win games again. We have to put right a few wrongs."
Everton have doubts over Kevin Mirallas (hamstring), Seamus Coleman (thigh), Darron Gibson (hip) and Tony Hibbert (calf), while West Brom are expected to be without Steven Reid (calf), Shane Long (hip), Marc-Antoine Fortune (hamstring) and Claudio Yacob (shoulder). Zoltan Gera is out for 10 months with a knee ligament injury.
The Baggies have kept just a single clean sheet in their last 13 league games, and have not managed any away from home all season. Striker Romelu Lukaku has attempted more shots on target and has scored more goals than any other player in the West Brom squad this season, despite playing less than half of the total minutes of the campaign.
Everton have drawn 11 games - tied with Stoke for the most in the Premier League this season. The one-point specialists have drawn six of their last 11 and have played out goalless draws in each of their last two games.
West Brom won 2-0 when these teams met at the Hawthorns in September. Long and Gareth McAuley scored goals in the second half, and Everton managed just two shots on target. The last draw between these sides was in May 2006, with Everton winning five and West Brom three of the eight games since then.