Sixth placed Everton arrive at St. James’ Park on Wednesday looking for a critical three points to remain in contention for Europe. David Moyes’ squad is in a strong run of form despite losing to Chelsea 2-1 on Sunday. The Toffees have won three of their last five and have proven themselves a difficult club to break down on the road where they’ve only lost twice in 10 matches.
Standing in their way is a Newcastle squad that sits 15th in the table and only two points before the drop zone. Alan Pardew’s side put on an inspirational display last time they were home, dueling to a 4-3 loss at the hands of Manchester United. Three days later things got worse for the Magpies as the defense struggled once again, losing 7-3 to Arsenal. While Newcastle typically utilizes the friendly confines of St. James’ Park to its advantage, this season the Magpies have been luke-warm at home winning five, losing four and drawing once.
These two sides played to a pulsating 2-2 draw last September with Demba Ba the hero as he scored two goals in the second half to level a match that Everton appeared to have in hand. Leighton Baines opened the scoring in the 15th minute before Ba’s 49th minute equalizer. Victor Anichebe, whose earlier header had appeared to cross the line but was not given, scored what he believed to be the game winner with an 88th minute smash but Ba equalized in the dying moments when he latched on to Shola Ameobi’s knockdown to roll a shot under Howard.
INJURIES AND LINEUPS
Everton welcomes Marouane Fellaini back to the Starting XI while a string of injuries leaves the Toffees thin on the bench. David Moyes lost Darron Gibson for a month when he re-injured his thigh against Wigan while Kevin Mirallas (hamstring), Tony Hibbert (calf) and Seamus Coleman (hamstring) are all unlikely to feature. Phil Neville (knee) could return having been rested in the defeat by Chelsea.
With the loss of Gibson, the potential absence of Neville and the current form of Anichebe, expect Moyes to utilize Fellaini in a more central position with room to wander.
Howard (GK), Jagielka (RB), Distin (CB), Heitinga (CB), Baines (LB), Osman (RM), Hitzlsperger (CM), Fellaini (CM), Pienaar (LM), Jelavic (F), Anichebe (F)
For Newcastle, things have gone from bad to worse. Things were bad when Pardew knew he’d be without Danny Simpson (toe), Steven Taylor (hamstring), Yohan Cabaye (groin surgery), Ryan Taylor (knee), Vurnon Anita (ankle), Hatem Ben Arfa (hamstring) and Jonas Gutierrez (knee), Dan Gosling (knee) and Haris Vuckic (knee). Things became a whole lot worse, however, when Chelsea triggered Demba Ba’s 7M release clause meaning the Senegalese international will miss the match as he heads to Stamford Bridge for contract discussions.
Tough days for Pardew but expect the gaffer to roll with the following Starting XI.
Krul (GK), Perch (RB), Coloccini (CB), Williamson (CB), Santon (LB), Tiote (CM), Bigirimana (CM), Marveaux (LM), Obertan (RM), Shola Ameobi(F), Cisse (F)
Newcastle Money Line (Must Win In 90 Mins): +220
Newcastle Pick Line (Draw = Push; Win = Win): +135
Everton Money Line (Must Win In 90 Mins): +120
Everton Pick Line (Draw = Push; Win = Win): -165
Over/Under 2.5 Goals: -140/-110
First Goalscorer: Papiss Cisse 13/2, Sylvain Marveaux 14/1, Shola Ameobi 7/1; Nikica Jelavic 11/2, Marouane Fellaini 7/1, Victor Anichebe 9/1
Bookies have provided both sides with decent odds to see a return on their money. For Newcastle supporters with blind hope, the +135 pick line looks a fantastic option given that the Magpies are playing at home against a club who they already drew with last Fall.
The odds are in favor of Everton for a reason, however, and that’s because the brilliant Fellaini is returning while Ba is away in London. This makes the +120 money line too juicy to pass up. I expect the Toffees to take this one handedly and for Fellaini to be the first to bulge the twine at 7/1.
Final Score: Everton 3, Newcastle 1