Everton and West Ham United will both seek a return to winning ways in the Premier League when the two European chasers lock horns at Goodison Park on Sunday afternoon.
The Toffees managed to take a point home from their clash with Manchester United before the international break, while the Hammers fell to defeat against Brentford.
The headlines at Old Trafford may have been dominated by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s decision to bench Cristiano Ronaldo, but take nothing away from Everton’s performance at the Theatre of Dreams as they came away with a 1-1 draw.
Anthony Martial initially justified his selection with the game’s opening goal just before the break, but Everton new boy Andros Townsend continued his hot streak with the equaliser after a sweeping second-half counter-attack to hand Rafael Benitez yet another positive result.
The ex-Liverpool boss has overseen four victories and two draws from his opening seven games in charge to propel his side to fifth in the rankings as one of four sides sitting on 14 points, and there is the slight possibility of Everton ending the weekend at the top of the pile if results go their way elsewhere.
Such a scenario is highly unlikely, but for the Toffees to be in the same conversation as the big boys is a testament to the way they have gone about their business so far this term, with Townsend and Demarai Gray loving life on Merseyside since their summer arrivals.
The Toffees also boast a perfect record of three wins from their first three home games of the Premier League season – scoring eight goals in that rich vein of form – but not since the 1978-79 season have Everton won their first four at home.
The Europa League fatigue may now be starting to kick in for this West Ham side, as while they continue to produce the goods in continental competition, their domestic fortunes appear to have taken quite the hit in recent weeks.
The Hammers were 1-0 down after 20 minutes against Brentford as Bryan Mbeumo struck the game’s opening goal before Jarrod Bowen levelled proceedings in the 80th minute, but the Bees’ super sub Yoane Wissa once again came off the bench to produce late heroics in the fourth minute of injury time to settle the contest.
With only one win to boast from their last five in the Premier League, David Moyes’s side have now dropped to ninth in the rankings and are three points behind their fifth-placed opponents as things stand, but 14 goals scored is by far the highest outside of the top five.
In spite of their underwhelming top-flight results, the Hammers can certainly take confidence from their EFL Cup run and Europa League results, and they also travel to Goodison Park on a six-game unbeaten run away from home in the Premier League – scoring 12 goals in that impressive streak.
West Ham had a New Year’s Day to remember last year as Tomas Soucek’s late goal saw them win 1-0 at Goodison Park, but Everton gained revenge with a 1-0 success of their own in the capital in May, and Moyes’s side have won just one of their last six with the Scot’s former club in all competitions.
Everton Premier League form:
Everton form (all competitions):
West Ham United Premier League form:
West Ham United form (all competitions):
We say: Everton 1-1 West Ham United
A battle between two European-chasing sides who simply love to attack should serve up a treat for fans and neutrals alike, but players on both sides are sure to be feeling the effects of the international break.
While the Toffees are in the process of turning Goodison Park into a fortress, the Hammers continue to produce the goods away from home, and we think that this game has a draw written all over it.