It’s retro day at Goodison Park on Saturday, with home fans being encouraged to arrive in replica kits and to enjoy classic tunes from the past, as Everton play hosts to Hull City on the eighth weekend of the 2013/14 Premier League season.
Both sides are evenly matched in terms of form and have started the campaign off in strong fashion, with the Toffees collecting 12 points up to now whilst the visitors are just behind them in the table with 11 points in ninth place.
Everton will be hoping to maintain their unbeaten record at home so far and bounce back from their loss to Manchester City away in their last fixture, whereas Hull are chasing a second consecutive away victory after beating Newcastle United 3-2 in their last outing on the road.
The Tigers will travel to Merseyside without James Chester (hamstring) and club captain Robert Koren (foot) but current top goalscorer Robbie Brady (hernia) is in line for a surprise quick-fire return to the team.
Roberto Martínez has been dealt with a huge blow during the midweek international calendar after Darron Gibson (anterior cruciate ligament) was stretched off in Republic of Ireland’s 3-1 win over Kazakhstan and is now set to undergo surgery.
Since the midfielder’s arrival midway through 2012, Everton have won 48.5% of the 33 Premier League games he has started, compared with 36.7% of the 30 without his presence. Martínez also confirmed both Steven Pienaar (hamstring) and Antolín Alcaraz (groin) are unlikely to make the bench, although the Spaniard claimed the duo are ahead of schedule in their rehabilitation period and should be available for selection next weekend.
Head-to-Head: The Last Five Meetings
[ul class=”list list-arrow_blue”]
[li]Everton 5-1 Hull City – 7th March 2010 (Premier League)[/li]
[li] Hull City 3-2 Everton – 25th November 2009 (Premier League) [/li]
[li] Hull City 0-4 Everton – 23rd September 2009 (Carling Cup) [/li]
[li] Everton 2-0 Hull City – 10th January 2009 (Premier League) [/li]
[li] Hull City 2-2 Everton – 21st September 2008 (Premier League) [/li]
Martínez v Bruce: Possible Team Line-ups and Brief Analysis
Whilst Everton’s style under Martínez has been more to do with ball retention and less direct play, Romelu Lukaku’s powerful stature up front still resembles the proverbial sturdy figure that existed either through Marouane Fellaini or Victor Anichebe under the David Moyes regime – although the Belgium striker is exceptionally gifted on the floor through his speed, awareness and link-up with team-mates alongside his palpable strength.
Martínez has tended to deploy an open and possession-heavy 4-2-3-1 formation so far, with Ross Barkley being the player comfortable enough to pick up the ball in midfield, take forwards and cause havoc in the final third with, whilst newly-established pairing James McCarthy and Gareth Barry add balance, vision and composure just behind him in the Everton team.
Leighton Baines, whose marauding runs down the left-hand flank were crucial to England’s 2-0 triumph over Poland on Tuesday, will want to do the same in this match but whilst he is one of the best in world football for crucially effecting a game from his position, Steve Bruce will know the importance of stopping the 28-year-old in order to earn a positive result and Ahmed Elmohamady is almost a certainty to start the game and operate as a second right-back just in front of Liam Rosenior.
[sws_blockquote_endquote align=”” cite=”Martínez’s thoughts on Hull City’s bright start ahead of the game.” quotestyle=”style02″] Hull City are not just a team that were promoted this season, I think they have gone onto the next level. The additions that arrived in the summer have added a lot into a winning mentality, a team that tactically is very flexible, they’ve been able to play in different formations which is a real strength of theirs and they’re playing with a real confident outlook. That means they are tough opposition and they will come to Goodison knowing they can get a positive result and we’ll have to be prepared for that… [/sws_blockquote_endquote]
Although Robbie Brady is on the comeback trail, Bruce may be reluctant to start the man that has been a shining light for them at present and Stephen Quinn may be preferred to George Boyd on the left in order to help tuck in alongside Maynor Figueroa, who scored on his last jaunt to Goodison Park in a 3-0 win over Everton in the FA Cup under Martínez’s stewardship at Wigan Athletic last season, to prevent Seamus Coleman creating chances down the right wing.
Danny Graham, who is still looking for his first Premier League goal for Hull since his loan move from Sunderland this summer, should start ahead of Yannick Sagbo upfront whilst Sone Aluko is set to be given the role of playing just off him and to be his side’s most potent threat in attack through his driving runs and creative sparkle.
Key Men & Battles
Both sides have incorporated two new well-rounded midfielders into their setups that are strong tacklers, brilliant at recycling possession and sussing out danger this season.
Hull’s combination of Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore, the first arriving from Tottenham Hotspur permanently this summer whilst the latter is only a temporary signing, bring balance, assurance and allow midfield runners such as, Robbie Brady or Sone Aluko the freedom to advance up the field fruitfully and are now the firm backbone that Bruce has done well to establish so quickly within his team.
Huddlestone, who has won 72.2% of his tackles and made 12 interceptions at this present time, is great at breaking up the play in front of his side’s backline and feeding balls through to attackers – also boasting a pass completion rate of 77.9% with 35% going forwards.
Livermore, who has won just 66.6% of his tackles, has completed 84% of his passes so far and is the more prominent of the two to be asked to affect the flow of the game further forwards, creating seven chances all from open play so far.
Like Huddlestone, Gareth Barry is essential at dictating the tempo of his side’s matches from the centre of midfield and is somebody that is a master at pulling off the ‘unspectacular’ work or the ugly labour fluidly in terms of helping the team at all costs.
The 32-year-old has thus far impressively won 100% (5) of his tackles, made six interceptions and whilst his pass completion is also looking good at 84.8%, James McCarthy – like Livermore – is the one asked to move slightly further than his partner, creating six chances from open play and completing 84.6% of his passes so far, therefore the midfield should be a key battle between the two teams and whoever ultimately seizes it could hold the key to winning the game.
Both Martínez and Bruce will also be praying that their most proficient threats in the attacking third can exploit their midfield coupling having the control by picking up the ball from them continuously and creating chances for their lone strikers to pounce on.
Ross Barkley, who has completed the second most successful take-ons (29) in the Premier League and scored two goals so far, has been a revelation in the Everton side this season and has thoroughly grasped his chance to shine on the big stage.
In comparison, Aluko – who has drawn the most fouls (22) in the league so far – functions extremely well in the same position, scoring just once although it was a spectacular strike against Newcastle, and whilst dominating the midfield will be the most important task to accomplish, both sides will have been planning all week to find ways in which they can create opportunities or space for their respective attacking midfielders to latch onto.
Another player that could heavily feature throughout what is expected to be a match aimed towards ruling the possession is Curtis Davies, who has currently made a staggering 19 interceptions and won two last-man standing tackles, considering Romelu Lukaku has scored four goals and made one assist in just 217 minutes of action for Everton and he will need to do what others have failed to do so far and expertly cope with the former Anderlecht man’s menacing power.
Hull, though, will take some heart out of the fact that Everton almost shot themselves in the foot during their last home game after beating Newcastle 3-2, yet they were actually 3-0 to the good at half-time, whilst they came from behind, coincidentally against Newcastle, to win 3-2 in their last away fixture.
No side has played more teenagers in the Premier League this season than Everton (3), whilst no side has currently gone longer without losing at home in the Premier League in the last 12 games (W9 D3).
Hull City have not conceded a goal in three hours and 46 minutes of Premier League action, whilst they have also used the fewest amount of players (17) so far.
Referee: Neil Swarbrick