High-flying Everton host Swansea City this weekend aiming to keep their bid for a European place firmly on track.
The Toffees have shaken off their perennial tendency to start the season slowly and currently occupy fifth position, just two points behind Chelsea in fourth and three points adrift of Tottenham Hotspur in third.
Only once before have the Merseyside outfit accumulated more points in a season after this number of games, that being in 2004-05, when they secured fourth place ahead of city rivals Liverpool to earn a spot in the Champions League qualifiers.
David Moyes’ men head into this game on the back of a 5-1 thrashing of Cheltenham Town in the FA Cup third round on Monday evening, while they’ve only tasted defeat once in their last nine Premier League matches, a narrow 2-1 loss against Chelsea.
However, it certainly won’t be an easy task on Saturday against the Swans, who find themselves in ninth position following a solid start to the campaign under Michael Laudrup and will be in high spirits after their 2-0 defeat of Chelsea in midweek.
That result at Stamford Bridge sees the Swans with one foot in the Capital One Cup final, with the second-leg of their semi-final with Rafa Benitez’s side still to come, and they’ll be looking to round off a memorable week with a win at Goodison Park.
It’s the home side who are priced as favourites to emerge with all three points at 53/100, with the draw at 3/1, while a first ever competitive win for the Welsh club against their hosts, having failed to do so in 16 previous attempts, can be backed at 5/1.
The Toffees have won all three games against their visitors since their promotion to the top flight without even conceding a goal, winning 3-0 at the Liberty Stadium earlier this season, following 1-0 and 2-0 successes in last year’s campaign.
Moyes’ men have a formidable home record, losing just one of their ten matches at Goodison, winning five and drawing four, and the Scot will ensure his players are aware of the importance of winning their home games if European football is to be achieved.
However, Everton do have a tendency to fall behind in games, with only Manchester United having secured more points this season from a losing position, and they have scored and conceded in their last 16 consecutive league matches.
Their defence will have their work cut out against the in-form Michu, who has proved a revelation for Swansea this term since arriving for a bargain £2 million from Rayo Vallecano, bagging 13 league goals, including a brace in their 2-0 victory against Arsenal at the Emirates in December.
The attacker looks an attractive bet at 15/2 to open the scoring against a side that have kept just one clean sheet at home this term, while those looking for a safer bet can back Michu to score at any time, which has been pried at 9/4.
But the Welsh club have picked up just one win in their last five Premier League matches and having already seen off Manchester United and Tottenham at home this season, Everton should have enough quality to get past the Swans.
Given the Toffees’ apparent inability to record a clean sheet this term, odds of 31/10 for a 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1 home win in the multiple correct score market look far too good to miss, especially with winnings of £82 on offer for new bwin customers successfully backing this selection with their free £20 bet.
With a place in the top four a possible reward should Chelsea lose at Stoke City, I fancy Everton to get the job done, albeit without managing to shut out the Swans.
Top bet: Everton to beat Swansea 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1 @ 31/10