Preview: Everton vs. Bournemouth

Preview: Everton vs. Bournemouth

Everton welcome Bournemouth to Goodison Park on the final day of the Premier League season on Sunday, knowing a win will keep the Toffees in the top flight for next season.

With Leeds United and Leicester City both failing to win last weekend, Everton will begin the day outside the drop zone, as two of the three will be relegated alongside Southampton.

After securing Premier League safety last season with one game to spare following a dramatic comeback win over Crystal Palace, Everton will now have their fate sealed on the final day for the first time since 1998.

On that occasion, Everton started the day in the bottom three, but a draw over Coventry City saw them leapfrog Bolton Wanderers, who were beaten at Chelsea.

This season though, everything is in their own hands, safe in the knowledge that one more valuable victory will preserve their top-flight status for a 69th-successive campaign.

Leicester’s unlikely point at St. James’ Park on Monday night makes the task a little more difficult for Everton though, as a draw would have most likely been enough had the Foxes lost in the North East.

There are plenty of potential permutations should Everton slip up given how close the points tallies and goal difference is between the three sides.

A defeat here for the Toffees could still keep them up as long as both Leeds and Leicester do not win, while a draw could also ensure survival as long as Leicester draw or lose and Leeds do not beat Tottenham Hotspur by three or more goals.

Given they went 2-0 down at home to Crystal Palace in their final home game last season, these permutations are likely to come into play at some point during the afternoon, especially considering Everton’s surprisingly poor home form in recent weeks.

The last three Premier League matches here at Goodison have all ended in defeat for Sean Dyche’s men, conceding 10 goals in the process, as Fulham, Newcastle United and Manchester City all came to Merseyside and recorded convincing victories.

Everton’s away form has been much more notable given their reputation as notoriously poor travellers, losing just one of their final seven away matches of the season.

That good record was kept intact by an astonishing finale at Molineux against Wolverhampton Wanderers last Saturday, when after being second-best for the majority of the afternoon, Yerry Mina popped up with a 99th-minute equaliser to heap the pressure on their rivals.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s first-half injury recurrence represents a huge problem in attack though, as Everton were once again reliant on a central defender finding an all-important goal.

Dwight McNeil is the club’s top scorer this season with just seven goals, the lowest tally they have had for their leading marksman since the 2001-02 season.

That illustrates part of the challenge Dyche was presented with when he arrived, but there has been clear improvement given his tally of 18 points from 17 games, compared with Frank Lampard’s 15 from 20 matches in the first half of the season.

One worrying statistic is how poor Everton’s recent results on the final day have been, as they have drawn one and lost five of their last six encounters on the closing weekend.

Albeit, Everton have had nothing to play for in most of their recent final day outings, but their last three have seen them lose 5-1 at Arsenal, 5-0 at Man City, and, eerily, 3-1 at home to upcoming opponents Bournemouth in 2020.

That result continued a run in which Bournemouth have consistently got the better of Everton, winning in the last four meetings between the sides, scoring 13 times.

The two clubs met twice in a week back in November shortly before the World Cup break, with Bournemouth’s second-string side thrashing Everton 4-1 in the EFL Cup, before beating them 3-0 in the league just days later – a pair of results which many Everton fans believed should have resulted in the end of Lampard’s tenure at the club.

On their return to the top flight, Bournemouth realistically confirmed their survival weeks ago, after five fantastic wins during April.

The wheels have come off slightly since then, with Gary O’Neil’s men losing three in a row as their season draws to a close.

Nevertheless, Bournemouth will join a small group of clubs who have survived despite conceding so many goals.

The 9-0 defeat on their last trip to Merseyside to face Liverpool in August contributes heavily to that, but the Cherries will become just the eighth side in PL history to stay up despite conceding 70+ goals.

They could be joined by Leeds in managing that should Bournemouth do them a favour here, and also Nottingham Forest if they concede three at Palace this weekend.

Everton Premier League form:

Bournemouth Premier League form:

We say: Everton 1-1 Bournemouth
There have been 49 goals scored in the 13 head-to-head clashes between these two sides, but with what is on the line, this should be a very different kind of game.

With Everton’s current striking woes and a run of form which has seen them win just two of their last 14 games, the Toffees may need some help from elsewhere to ensure their top-flight status.

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