Fast-starting Everton are up against Middlesbrough and if the Toffees' win isn't quite the foregone conclusion the odds suggest it is, we should be able to bank on over 2.5 goals instead, says Jamie Pacheco...
"Boro have plenty of attacking talent themselves and if it’s true they’ve only kept one clean sheet in five, it’s also true that they’ve only failed to score once in five games."
Everton v Middlesbrough
Saturday September 17, 18:30
Live on BT Sport 1
Everton were going nowhere fast at half-time against Sunderland on Monday night and I was beginning to think Mike Norman was spot on when he said they had gone off at far too short a price.
Ronald Koeman's decision to hook Ross Barkley at half-time seemed a gutsy one but his replacement Gerard Deulofeu was excellent in the second-half, running at defenders at pace and owning the right flank.
The big star in the 3-0 win was of course was Romelu Lukaku though, who scored a hat-trick and reminded everyone why Everton were so adamant about refusing huge offers for him despite a poor showing at Euro 2016.
With full-backs Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman back to full fitness and providing an extra threat on the wing and players of the calibre of Deulofeu, Aaron Lennon and Arouna Kone only making the bench, Koeman has plenty of options at his disposal. And that's without mentioning Yannick Bolasie, their big summer signing.
Every year there's a promoted side who performs a lot better than expected and after two matches and four points you could be forgiven for thinking this year it was going to be 'Boro. That was before a 2-1 defeat to Fulham in the Cup, a 0-0 draw at West Brom and a 2-1 home defeat to hapless Crystal Palace.
But they actually look a promising side with class acts in the key positions: Brad Guzan or Victor Valdes in goal, Daniel Ayala in the heart of defence, Gaston Ramirez and Stewart Downing providing creativity in the middle and out wide and Alvaro Negredo - capped 21 for Spain no less - offering power and goals upfront.
The concern however would be just one clean sheet from five matches this season. Given they've 'only' played Stoke, Sunderland, Fulham, West Brom and Palace so far, things aren't going to get any easier in that regard.
Head-to-heads don't really help us out too much here because the last time these two played against one another in the league was way back in 2008/9. To get an idea of how long ago that seems, Yakubu scored for Everton in a 1-1 draw against a 'Boro side featuring the much-maligned Afonso Alves and hard man Emanuel Pogatetz.
So in the absence of those stats, we have to rely on common sense. Which tells us that 1.738/11 on the perennial Premier League side, with the better squad and better start to the season against a newly-promoted side, sounds about right. The draw is 3.953/1 if you fancy it.
In a match with very few stand-out bets, going over 2.5 goals might just be about the only one really worth pursuing.
Stats-wise we can take encouragement from the fact that 63.2% of Everton's home matches last season went over the 2.5 goal-threshold. It's also worth noting that for both teams, half of their matches this season have gone over 2.5 goals. So with the first stat of Everton's home games last season and that the latter one, a quote of 2.0811/10 already represents some value.
Just looking at Everton's attacking options, they're more than capable of scoring two or three by themselves. Lukaku is one of those players who scores in clusters- last season he scored in eight consecutive matches between early November and mid-December - and having had a dry spell spanning from the end of last season to the first three weeks of this one, he's now got five goals in two games having followed up a brace for Belgium with that hat-trick at Sunderland.
Barkley has been lively for the most part and Kevin Mirallas and Yannick Bolasie are normally each worth six or seven goals a season and will see a fixture like this as a good chance to add to their tally. I also think Ronald Koeman is quite an attack-minded manager and not one to defend a lead if that's how the game pans out.
As mentioned already, Aitor Karanka's men have plenty of attacking talent themselves and if it's true they've only kept one clean sheet in five, it's also true that they've only failed to score once in five games.
Lee Mason averaged 2.82 yellows a match in all competitions last season, showing an average of one red card every 11.33 games. This season he's shown five yellows in two games at an average of 2.5 yellows a game and no reds. He awarded Sunderland a penalty against Southampton on Matchday 2.
One of the more lenient and less expressive referees around, he's unlikely to let this game get out of control. With only one of the eight matches played between both teams so far breaking the 45 points barrier (five yellows or a red and two yellows), a lay of '45 points and over' looks a safe bet.
After going 1139 minutes without a goal in competitive action for Everton, Romelu Lukaku has now scored three times in his last 29 minutes on the pitch for the club.
Jamie's 2016/17 Premier League P/L