Steve Rawlings takes a look at Saturday's clash between seventh and eighth as Nuno Santos' in-form Wolves travel to Goodison to take on Marco Silva's faltering Everton...
"If the Premier League table reflected the last ten games only, despite losing to Liverpool, City and Palace, Wolves would sit in fourth place, above the defending champions and behind Liverpool, Spurs and Manchester United and Everton would be ten places below them."
Everton v Wolves
Saturday February 2, 15:00
Silva's soldiers look to build on unconvincing Terriers triumph
Having endured their third worst run in the Premier League which saw them pick up just eight points in ten games and having been unceremoniously dumped out of the FA Cup by Millwall on Saturday, Everton finally took some of the heat off their manager, Marco Silva, with a much-needed 1-0 win away at bottom club, Huddersfield.
It wasn't a brilliant performance by any means though and it was all hands to the pump after substitute Lucas Digne was sent off for bringing down Huddersfield's Adama Diakhaby when clean through after 66 minutes. Although abject, the Terriers enjoyed the majority of possession and if it wasn't for their well-documented ineptitude in front of goal, they may well have taken at least a point.
Even so, a win is a win and Silva will be desperately hoping his side can move on from here and re-establish Goodison as something of a fortress again. Everton won 13 of their 19 home encounters in the Premier League in the 2016/17 season and ten of 19 last term but the Toffees have won only half of their 12 home games this season so far (drawing three and losing three) and they've won just once at Goodison (2-0 against an out-of-form Bournemouth) since they edged out Cardiff 1-0 back in November. Goodison isn't the significant stronghold it once.
Wolves seek third win in-a-row
Wolves play fabulous free-flowing football most of the time but they haven't been immune to the odd puzzlingly poor performance. A 2-0 home defeat to Huddersfield was the most mystifying and they followed that with a 2-1 loss at Cardiff, having led at the break. After a bright start to the season, those two results were sizable bumps in the road but they appear to be back on track now.
Since that surprise defeat in Wales at the end of November, Wolves have lost just three times in the Premier League, away to the champions, Manchester City, at home to the league leaders, Liverpool, and to Crystal Palace at home. There's no shame in losing to the two teams at the top of the table and Palace appear to be a far more effective outfit on the road than they are at Selhurst Park, so the visitors are in fair form.
In addition to knocking a weakened Liverpool side out of the FA Cup recently, Wolves have beaten Chelsea at home and Spurs away and they're looking for their third win-in-row after back-to-back home wins against Leicester and West Ham.
Half-time stalemate the value play
Although historically Everton have the better recent record (they've lost just one of their last 14 at home to Wolves), these two sides are very closely matched. They sit seventh and eighth in the league, with just two points separating them, they kicked off the season with a 2-2 draw at Molineux (the fifth draw between the two sides in seven matches) and they've had similar or identical results against a number of teams. They're hard to separate but if we look at recent form, Wolves look like the side on the up.
If the Premier League table reflected the last ten games only, despite losing to Liverpool, City and Palace, Wolves would sit in fourth place, above the defending champions and behind Liverpool, Spurs and Manchester United and Everton would be ten places below them.
After Leicester's draw at Liverpool on Wednesday night Claude Puel, although still favourite, has eased in the Next Manger to Leave market and Marco Silva has shortened up, with Chelsea's Maurizio Sarri the only other manager ahead of the Everton boss in the market. He's under pressure and a scrappy 1-0 win at Huddersfield on Tuesday hasn't eased the pressure much.
If forced to make a pick in the outright market, I'd just plump for Wolves but a stalemate wouldn't be anything of a surprise and the value lies in the Half Time/Full Time market.
Everton have been drawing at half-time in 16 of their 24 Premier League games to date (eight at home and eight away) and Wolves have been level in 11 of their 24 (six at home and five away). I suspect this is going to be a tight affair and given those stats, it would be no surprise at all to see the two teams level at the break. Everton's form appears regressive and I fancy Wolves are the stronger outfit so I'm going to play Draw/Draw and Draw/Wolves for a point apiece.
Goals could be sparse in tight affair
These two played out a 2-2 draw at Molineux on the opening game of the season and the stats suggest there's more than a fair chance they'll both notch again this time around given Everton have scored in 92% of their homes games and that Wolves have found the net in 77% of their away encounters but I'm not convinced. Both Teams to Score is odds-on but I can see this being a tight affair.
Under 2.5 in the Over/Under 2.5 Goals market is odds-on and that doesn't surprise me. There have been three or more scored in exactly half of Everton's home games this season but 64% of Wolves away ties have seen less than three goals scored. Given how closely matched these two teams are, a cagey low-scoring encounter could be on the cards.
Staked: 66 pts
P/L: -21.47 pts
1 pt Draw-Draw @ [5.6] in the Half Time/Full Time market
1 pt Draw-Wolves @ [8.4]in the Half Time/Full Time market