Eddie Howe's Bournemouth travel to Goodison Park on Sunday where a win may still not be enough to save them. Steve Rawlings previews the match here...
“With Everton so abjectly poor as the season draws to an end, it’s hard to see them putting in a strong performance here. They looked a very disinterested group at home to Villa and just the sort of team you want to play when you’re fighting for survival.”
Everton v Bournemouth
Sunday July 26, 16:00
Live on Sky Sports
Ancelotti's Toffee's aimlessly drifting
It's been another disappointing Premier League campaign for Everton that will end with either an 11th or 12th place finish. A far lower finishing position than the Goodison Park faithful would have hoped for almost a year ago when the season began.
After a disappointing start to the season, Toffees boss, Marco Silva, was sacked at the start of December following a 5-2 drubbing by their neighbours, Liverpool, and after a brief unbeaten spell under interim boss, Duncan Ferguson, Carlos Ancelotti took over the reins just before Christmas and they've not been beaten at home since.
In fact, Everton are undefeated in their last 11 at Goodison Park in the Premier League (nine under Ancelotti) and if they avoid defeat on Sunday, the Italian will be the first Everton boss to remain unbeaten in their first 10 top-flight home games. That all sounds quite impressive but it hides a multitude of sins and their 1-0 victory at Sheffield United on Tuesday evening was their first win in five.
Since drawing at home with Liverpool, and back-to-back victories over bottom club, Norwich, and an out-of-form Leicester, Everton have been drifting aimlessly towards the campaign's conclusion.
They lost 1-0 at Spurs, drew 1-1 at home with Southampton and after their woeful 3-0 defeat away at Wolves, which Ancelotti described as "unacceptable", they came from behind to draw 1-1 at home with Aston Villa, thanks to a Theo Walcott equaliser in the 87th minute, before finally winning again on Tuesday.
Ancelotti was pleased by his team's performance in Sheffield, accepting that there is not a lot of motivation at this stage of the season when two teams are safe, and I just wonder how far under par Chris Wilder's Blades were? If they were edging their way towards the beach after their incredible campaign, nobody could blame them and the fact that the two sides served up a very dull affair wasn't a surprise to anyone.
Everton are bumbling their way to the season's end and it's highly debatable whether they'll be in the mood for a scrap on Sunday.
Bournemouth expected to keep on battling
After back-to-back defeats to Manchester City and Southampton, and with just Sunday's game remaining, of the three teams still alive, Bournemouth are the least likely to remain in the Premier League.
Eddie Howe's Cherries are three points behind both Aston Villa and Watford and they're trading at just 1.061/18 to immediately return to the Championship along with Norwich but that looks short to me.
City certainly weren't at their best, but Bournemouth could have grabbed a point at the Etihad (lost 2-1) last week and they were unlucky not to get something from their home game with the Saints on Sunday.
Southampton who beat City at the start of July, and who sit third in the Away Form Table, are excellent away from St Mary's and they've finished the season really well. The Saints are now unbeaten in their last six in the Premier League but the Cherries gave as good as they got at the weekend and they were unfortunate not to get a draw. Sam Surridge's injury time equaliser was correctly ruled out via VAR, due to Callum Wilson being fractionally offside in the build-up, before Che Adams made it 2-0 to Southampton right at the death.
Prior to those two defeats. Bournemouth had drawn 0-0 with Spurs and they'd come from behind to beat Leicester 4-1 so they've been fighting hard and although they've lost all four of their previous encounters with Everton at Goodison Park and they've lost their last nine Premier League away games, it's hard to see them going down without a fight.
History suggest they'll be goals on the agenda
Everton home games are often tight affairs and three goals have been scored in only 33% of Premier League matches at Goodison Park this season, suggesting the odds of around 2.56/4 for Under in the Over/Under 2.5 Goals market is generous but this fixture tends to produce a few...
This is the tenth meeting between these two teams in the Premier League and so far, there have been 35 goals scored! That's an average of 3.9 goals per game and when they met at Goodison in 2016, the game finished 6-3!
In seven of their nine previous meetings there have been at least three goals scores and there have been more than a couple of goals scored in five of Bournemouth's last six away games, suggesting Over at around 1.664/6 is the value.
Cherries worth chancing for a crazy escape
Almost everything points to a home win but historic stats are often worth very little at this time of the season. This fixture has produced more than its fair share of crazy results and we might just get the weirdest one yet on Sunday.
With Everton so abjectly poor as the season draws to an end, it's hard to see them putting in a strong performance here. Ancelotti and club captain, Seamus Coleman, both tried to rally the troops before their last home game against Aston Villa but apart from a busy first ten minutes or so, it had virtually no effect. They looked a very disinterested group and just the sort of team you want to play when you're fighting for survival.
I'm happy to play Bournemouth modestly in the outright market at 3.259/4 and I'm also content to back them at 14/1 with the Sportsbook in the To Stay Up market.
Watford have made a huge error getting rid of Nigel Pearson so late in the season and I can see them getting beat away at Arsenal. Mikel Arteta's men lost 1-0 to Villa in the week but that came after a 2-1 win against Liverpool and a 2-0 victory against Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final on Saturday. With the final looming large next weekend, and with places in the Cup final line-up up for grabs, I can see the Gunners all fired up on Sunday.
Now trading at 3.211/5 in the Relegation market, Aston Villa are very much in the driving seat and provided they better Watford's result they'll be the ones to survive but things can change dramatically when fate is back in your own hands - look at the way Brentford and Nottingham Forest finished their seasons in the Championship! Brentford lost their last two matches with a place in the Premier League suddenly within reach and Forest performed a minor miracle not to feature in the playoffs.
The Villans travel to London to face a West Ham side finishing the season with verve and confidence and a Villa victory is far from certain so I'm happy to take a punt on a seemingly unlikely scenario on Sunday.
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Staked: 74.5 pts
Returned: 96.14 pts
P/L: +21.64 pts
1pt Bournemouth @ 3.259/4
1pt Bournemouth To Stay Up @ 14/1