Everton v Southampton
Monday 2 December, 15:00
Any hopes Everton had of breaking into the top six this season look to have vanished with Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs, Manchesters City and United now appearing to have their own mini-league at the head of the table.
Seventh-placed Everton are at least best of the rest although the gap to Utd in sixth is now nine points.
It's been a decent Festive period for the Toffees although it's fair to think that their four-point haul after a win at Leicester and a draw at Hull would have come the other way around. Their win at the King Power was a real boost, the single point at the KC a disappointment.
Everton lost their unbeaten home record in agonising fashion to local rivals Liverpool in their most recent Goodison outing when Sadio Mane poked home in injury-time but before that they'd shown previously absent fighting qualities to come from behind and beat Arsenal 2-1.
Overall at home they've won four, drawn four and lost one, scoring 12 and conceding seven. Stretching back to last season, they've tasted defeat just once in their last 12 Goodison starts.
They also haven't lost any of their last 11 home games against Southampton, winning eight of those.
Boss Ronald Koeman will hope for better luck against his former side having lost on his return to St Mary's in November. Charlie Austin gave Saints a first-minute lead that day and it stayed that way.
It's a mark of how well Southampton recruit that new boss Claude Puel has been able to continue the fine work done by Koeman despite more summer exits and having to cope with the added fixtures of the Europa League.
In fact, the Frenchman's record after 19 Premier Leagues mirrors Koeman's exactly from the previous campaign. At this stage last season, Koeman had guided Saints to 24 points via six wins, six draws and seven defeats and Puel has produced the same numbers.
That's good enough for ninth spot in the table although Koeman's Saints kicked on last season to finish sixth.
It was looking even better for Puel going into the holiday period but since taking seven points from nine via wins over Middlesbrough and Bournemouth and a draw at Stoke, they've suffered back-to-back home defeats against Spurs and West Brom.
They were thumped 4-1 by the former and gave up a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 to the Baggies. To compound the misery, Saints had star defender Virgil van Dijk sent off in the 89th minute in that New Year's Eve clash and he'll miss this one through suspension.
It's the first time Puel has suffered two defeats in a row since taking over so he'll be extra keen for his side to show the resilience they've displayed during his tenure so far.
Are their exertions in the Europa League catching up with them? Puel will need to shuffle his pack but at least both their Festive fixtures have been at home so they've had a less hectic schedule than Everton, who have twice been on the road.
Everton are 2.35/4 to collect their fifth home win in the Premier League this season while Southampton are 3.613/5 to respond with a win after their back-to-back losses over the Festive period.
The draw has to be a big runner though and looks the preferred option. Everton have already drawn at home with Spurs, Crystal Palace, Swansea and Man Utd and it's hard to get too enthusiastic about a side which has a win rate since September 20 of just 20%.
Southampton have drawn three of their last six away games and that includes a 1-1 at Manchester City and a 0-0 at Stoke so they're no pushovers on the road.
They managed a 1-1 draw at Goodison last season and a repeat could be likely.
Both Teams To Score
It's virtually a pick 'em here with 'Yes' trading at 1.9620/21 and 'No' at 2.01/1.
BTTS backers have collected in six of Everton's nine home Premier League games this season. Also note that four times the Toffees have been held 1-1.
The 'No' backers have cleaned up in Southampton games this term and BTTS failed to land in 16 of Saints' 21 games between mid-September and mid-December. However, the net has bulged at both ends in each of the last three Southampton matches.
Kevin Friend is one of just two top-flight referees (other is Michael Oliver) yet to show a red card this season.
The Leicestershire official has flashed 66 yellows in his 16 games so averages just over four per match. That said, his last four make-ups were 2-3-3-3.
Southampton fans will have fond recent memories of him as he was the man in the middle for their 2-0 League Cup win at Arsenal. Friend booked just one Saints player that day.
The last time he took charge at Goodison (November 2014), he sent Swansea's Jonjo Shelvey off in a 0-0 draw.
Back Draw @ 3.412/5
Southampton have lost their last two Premier League games - they haven't lost three in a row since December 2014 (four in succession).
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