Beckford is scoring goals for Everton but midfield battle key for West Ham

Everton offer tough opposition on Saturday

The opposition

AFTER a poor start to the season which saw Everton linger in and around the drop zone, some good recent form has seen them climb the table to 12th.

Although they are still just four points off the drop zone, recent wins against Tottenham and Manchester City suggest they are on the up.

The Toffees are set to lose key midfielder Steven Pienaar to either Spurs or Chelsea over the coming days and with Tim Cahill away playing for Australia in the Asia Cup and Phil Jagielka injured, the hosts will be far from full strength.


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David Moyes has struggled to find a striker to put the ball in the back of the net this season, but he will be hopeful summer signing Jermaine Beckford, who scored against rivals Liverpool last Sunday will go on a scoring run.

Everton’s real strength lies defensively with the consistent Tim Howard between the sticks, while Sylvan Distin and John Heitinga are solid in the middle.

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Marouane Fellaini is a tidy player in the centre of the park, while Mikel Arteta is a creative talent alongside him.

Key to the game

WITH Scott Parker and Mark Noble both likely to play, the strength of both sides seems to be in the centre of the park and whoever is victorious, will go a long way to winning the game.

Leighton Baines (above) at left back is an excellent crosser of the ball and it is vital his forward runs are tracked, while going forward for West Ham even Carlton Cole will struggle in a physical battle against Distin and Heitinga.

If Everton push men into the box it will be difficult for the Hammers to stop them and if they bombard the visitors with crosses, it will be hard to see West Ham even claiming a point.

Verdict

WEST HAM are an improving side, but Everton at Goodison Park will no doubt be a tough task. The Toffees do have problems up front, but it is likely they will learn from the draw at Upton Park in late December when men broke from midfield the Hammers could not handle it.

With Victor Obinna suspended, Frederic Piquionne’s fitness questionable and Cole out of form, a lot of pressure will be put on Zavon Hines and Freddie Sears to create chances and against a strong defensive unit, they are unlikely to be successful too often.

Prediction: Everton 2 West Ham 0

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