Monday Night Football is a match between two sides safe from relegation and with very little to play for apart from a top-10 finish. Mike Norman expects a close game with goals for both sides likely...
"It's tough to make a clear case at the odds for either side taking all three points, so I think the way to play this one is to stick with the most obvious conclusion when looking at the league table; that there's virtually nothing between these two sides, and hopefully that will be the case on the field also."
Everton v Newcastle
Live on Sky Soorts
Toffees looking to end the season on a high
Everton's season is effectively over. The highest they can finish is very likely to be eighth - Burnley in seventh are 11 points ahead of them - while they are very unlikely to finish below 10th. Four games remaining to determine whether they finish eighth, ninth, or tenth. For Everton, you have to think that's not good enough.
But if there is a consolation then it's the fact that the Toffees won't have European football to play next season. If they can finish this campaign strongly then they'll go into the summer with a bit of confidence and momentum, strengthen their squad, and be in a position to make a big push to break into the top six next season.
Sam Allardyce's men have been in mixed form of late, winning four, drawing two, and losing four of their last 10 matches. On home soil they've won three of their last five, and they generally have a good record against non 'big six' clubs at Goodison Park. They have lost just three times on home in almost seven months, those defeats coming against Arsenal, Manchester City, and Manchester United.
Allardyce could well name the same starting XI that played in the 1-1 draw at Swansea last week as Gylfi Sigurdsson is still a few weeks away from resuming training following a knee injury.
Magpies tough to beat when not playing the big boys
The Magpies have timed their run to safety to perfection, winning five of their last seven including their last four on the spin. They've defeated the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal in that time, so it's almost impossible to knock their recent efforts.
But it would be folly not to mention that four of Newcastle's recent five wins have been achieved at St James' Park, and that prior to their narrow 2-1 win at Leicester a fortnight ago Rafa Benitez's men had failed to win for five consecutive away matches.
Interestingly though, and rather similar to Everton, Newcastle have a very poor record against 'big six' clubs on the road with defeats coming at Stamford Bridge, Anfield, Old Trafford, the Etihad, and the Emirates this season. They haven't lost on the road to a non-big six team for six months.
With Christian Atsu ruled out with a knee injury Benitez is likely to start with the same side that defeated Arsenal last week.
Just one point and one place separate Everton and Newcastle in the table, and with the Magpies on a golden run of form it may come as a slight surprise to some to see them trading as the [3.6] outsiders to win the match. The Toffees are the [2.34] favourites, with the Draw next best at [3.4].
Benitez's men undoubtedly go into the game in better form than their hosts, and although much of that form has been achieved at St James' Park they are certainly no slouches on the road either. They've won three, drawn two, and lost two of their last seven league away trips, the two defeats coming at the hands of champions Man City and Champions League semi-finalists Liverpool.
But Everton are also strong at home when facing a non-top six club. As mentioned already they haven't lost at home to a club outside of the top six since 1 October last year, and even then that defeat came against the team that comfortably sit in seventh place - Burnley.
It's tough to make a clear case at the odds for either side taking all three points, so I think the way to play this one is to stick with the most obvious conclusion when looking at the league table; that there's virtually nothing between these two sides, and hopefully that will be the case on the field also.
Although in terms of anything really meaningful both teams have little to play for, there is still a couple of top half finishes available and that is always a decent acheivement in a league where six clubs dominate.
It's obviously a bigger achievement for Newcastle given that they are newly promoted and were among the favourites to be relegated, but I don't think Everton will be giving up for the season just yet either.
Both clubs are in decent form and will be keen to beat each other, which will go a long way to securing that top half finish, so it's quite surprising to see Over 2.5 Goals trading at [2.34].
It's even more surprising when you consider that 10 of the last 12 meetings between Everton and Newcastle have witnessed at least three goals, including the last five on the spin at Goodison Park where an average of 3.8 goals per match were scored.
Mike's Individual Match Preview P/L (all competitions)
Staked: 54 pts
Returned: 63.02 pts
P/L: +9.02 pts