Everton play their first Premier League game at Goodison Park since February 2nd on Saturday as visitors Reading look to further damage the Toffees’ stuttering campaign and add much-needed impetus to their own survival fight.
David Moyes’ side have seen their league form tail off since Christmas with only two wins from seven and they now trail fourth-placed Chelsea by seven points, leaving themselves with plenty of work to do in the race for a Champions League spot.
What the Scottish manager really wants to see is a return to goalscoring form by his Croatian striker, Nikica Jelavic.
The £5 million signing from Rangers struck nine times in 13 appearances after moving to Merseyside last January, but he has only managed six in 26 this term and has not found the net at all since getting the winner in the 2-1 victory over Tottenham in December.
It is no coincidence that Everton have dropped 17 points since Jelavic’s last goal as the rest of the team struggle to score, with only Marouane Fellaini (ten) notching more for the Blues this season than Jelavic.
The Croatian is priced at evens by bwin to end his drought this weekend, making him the favourite to score in the game, so the bookies clearly still have confidence in the forward.
If Jelavic or the aforementioned Fellaini can get themselves on the scoresheet then the home side should live up to their billing as 9/25 favourites for the match in bwin’s 3-way betting market.
Standing in their way on Saturday will be a Reading side who, after a six-game unbeaten streak, have lost three in a row in all competitions and consequently sunk back into the murky depths of the relegation zone.
Despite their unenviable position of 19th, the Royals are only one point from safety and still have games against fellow strugglers Aston Villa and QPR to come.
Wins over those two sides won’t be enough to keep them afloat though, so they will see Everton’s slump in form as an opportunity to earn an unlikely result.
The Berkshire club are not well fancied with the bookies at 7/1 and even their chances of a draw don’t look promising at 15/4, but they were victorious on their last visit to Goodison Park, winning an FA Cup tie in 2011.
Unfortunately for Brian McDermott’s side, most other statistics support the view that Everton will be too strong and take the three points.
Chief among these is the one which shows Reading have won only once on their travels this season – a 2-1 victory at Newcastle United in January.
Also weighing against Reading is their defensive record away from home, particularly after the interval.
They have let in 18 goals in the second 45 minutes of their away games, which could let them down late on as Everton have scored nine times in the final 15 minutes of games and they are 33/100 to score the last goal of the game.
If you don’t want to bet on who will win, then you could do far worse than plump for the 87/100 on both teams scoring in the match.
This bet would have paid out in 12 of Everton’s 15 home games in all competitions and considering even League One side Oldham Athletic managed a goal at Goodison in midweek – as we suggested they would here – it would be no surprise to see Reading do likewise.