“This could be one of the strangest matches that I’ve commentated on. The goalposts have moved. For once, you could argue that winning the game is not the sole objective.”
So says the BBC’s Martin Fisher of West Ham v Everton, a match that is expected to decide the destination of the Premier League’s fair-play award.
A place in next season’s Europa League is the light at the end of the tunnel in a fixture that could more closely resemble a capoeira demonstration than a football match.
The Irons are marginal underdogs as far as the destination of the points is concerned, at 33/20 to their visitors’ 8/5, while the draw is 11/5.
It’s unlikely their chances of victory will be aided by the continuing injury absences of central defenders Winston Reid and James Tomkins either.
More happily for Sam Allardyce’s men, they are also 17/10 outsiders in the battle they actively want to lose, the one for the most yellow cards in the fixture, with Everton 23/20 favourites.
Here being without Reid and Tompkins is transformed from a major handicap for the Irons to a huge advantage as the graphic below illustrates.
Reid and Tompkins are West Ham’s most booked players this term and being without them must put the hosts at an advantage in the fair play stakes as a result.
By contrast Everton’s chief caution collectors are all available for selection, with Gareth Barry and Steven Naismith both holding big chances of making the starting lineup.
Barry saw yellow on his most recent trip to Upton Park and his fondness for resorting to illegal means to halt those who run beyond him rate him the greatest liability.
James Collins is the most carded Iron that may be called upon, but even the rough and ready centre-half’s card count this term is dwarfed by Everton’s trio of top transgressors.