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Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

Fragile defences could be exposed at Goodison Park

Struggling pair could serve up a thriller on Merseyside

Everton goalkeper Jordan Pickford hasn't had much protection from his defenders
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Premier League
BT Sport 1, 8pm Wednesday

Panto season has arrived early at Goodison Park with side-splitting slapstick pretty much guaranteed when the curtain goes up on Everton v West Ham.

Two of the worst defences in the Premier League have been delighting packed houses for months, though it’s no laughing matter for the clubs' respective owners and legions of fed-up fans.

All of them need some pre-Christmas cheer though it’s not easy to see who’ll be the dancing in the aisles after 90 minutes.

Everton are in a bad way – once the clarion call goes out for Sam Allardyce you know rock-bottom has been reached. If Big Sam is appointed it will probably get the same lukewarm reception from Toffees’ supporters that David Moyes arriving at the London Stadium got from Hammers’ fans.

Survival is everything and these are desperate clubs trying desperate measures to get anywhere close to competitive but it’s hard to be optimistic for either of them.

Too good to go down? Not on the evidence of Everton’s woeful 4-1 loss at out-of-form Southampton on Sunday, while Moyes’ first two assignments with West Ham have been utterly underwhelming.

Moyes will want to tighten up the Hammers. That they only conceded once in a 1-1 draw with Leicester hints at modest improvement for a team who have shipped 26 league goals.

Wednesday Premier League previews

Arsenal v Huddersfield

Bournemouth v Burnley

Chelsea v Swansea

Man City v Southampton

Stoke City v Liverpool

But they can surely afford to be positive against Everton, who look flawed in so many areas, and goals look on the cards. Both teams to score seems like a given but over 2.5 goals at 11-10 is preferred.

Everton’s games have averaged 3.15 goals and West Ham’s 2.9. It’s arguable that the Moyes factor needs to be acknowledged on his return to Goodison, but he is only as good as the players he has to work with and he has already slagged off a few of them after the 2-0 loss at Watford, his first game in charge.

West Ham have to believe they can profit against the worst defence in the division. Everton have let in 28 goals and haven’t kept a clean sheet in 13 matches, with no league shutouts since August.

They’ve conceded at least two goals in each of their last nine matches with Jordan Pickford exposed time and time again. In Leighton Baines’ absence they don’t have a left-back, they’ve got wingers who can’t defend and centre-backs who make mistake after mistake. The last two efforts, against Atalanta and Saints, have been defensively rancid.

Elsewhere, once good players Morgan Schneiderlin, Kevin Mirallas, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Aaron Lennon appear lost, uncomfortable with what’s going on around them, and the absence of a centre-forward continues to be an issue.

Everton look unbackable – even their come-from-behind win against Watford was riddled with luck – while West Ham have only won once on the road in the league since February.

Over 2.5 goals
2pts 11-10 Betfair, Sky Bet

Bet on this match at

Team news
Tom Davies returns from a ban but Oumar Niasse is still suspended. Leighton Baines and Michael Keane are major doubts. Seamus Coleman, Ramon Funes Mori, Yannick Bolasie and Ross Barkley are long-term casualties.

West Ham
James Collins, Michail Antonio and Javier Hernandez are still not ready to return to action. Jose Fonte is a long-term absentee. Marko Arnautovic is fit.

Key stat
After 13 matches, Everton and West Ham had the worst and second-worst defences in the Premier League.

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Survival is everything and these are desperate clubs trying desperate measures to get anywhere close to competitive
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