Ronald Koeman

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Premier League Preview: West Ham vs. Everton

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  • Toffees won 2-0 on Oct. 23
  • Irons took 4 points last season
  • Everton leads all-time 68W-30D-37L

Everton aims to keep its slim Top Five hopes alive when it attempts to sweep West Ham United for the fourth time in five seasons (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Romelu Lukaku should be a big part of that as he looks to build his 4-goal lead in the race for the Premier League’s Golden Boot. The soon-to-be 24-year-old has 24 goals on the season.

It hasn’t been a great couple months for West Ham, which the club is looking to turn around having picked up four points in the last two weeks (albeit against relegation candidates).

What they’re saying

West Ham’s James Collins on stopping Lukaku“Of course, Lukaku has got a good record against us, and we probably haven’t defended as well against him as we could have done in games gone by. Physically, he has got everything, he is big, strong and he can finish so it’s going to be a tough game. He’s obviously on top of his game, but I’m happy with the way I’m playing at the minute, so I’m looking forward to pitting my wits against one of the best strikers in the Premier League.”

Everton boss Ronald Koeman on away form: “It’s all about the attitude and having that in the same way when we play at home and away. Of course, it’s going to be slightly different because at Goodison we have the backing of 39,000 home fans. When those fans are against you [in an away game], that makes a difference. But we need to start well, start aggressive and try to score. We need a little bit more of that mentality away from home.”

Prediction

Something has to give between Everton’s road form (three matches in 13) and the Hammers being better away from the London Stadium than inside its walls. We expect that to sway toward the better quality on Everton, which wins 2-0.

Top Premier League Story Lines: Relegation race running hot

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Forget five story lines, as the Premier League has just six matches altogether this weekend thanks to the FA Cup semifinals.

[ MORE: Rojo injured ]

With the semifinalists all being PL powers, the focus will largely be on the relegation race aside from three Top Seven sides looking to put pressure on Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Manchester City.

Can Man Utd overcome short turnaround to keep up Top Four push?
Burnley vs. Manchester United — 9:15 a.m. ET Sunday

Defender-depleted Manchester United was home for Thursday’s UEFA Europa League second leg, which is the only blessing of a midweek match before a trip to Turf Moor to take on a Clarets side who is much better at home. The Red Devils control their Top Four destiny, but dropping a point would lend an advantage of both Liverpool and Man City while opening things up for Arsenal.

United will be keen to avenge the draw at Old Trafford which saw Tom Heaton making like Superman, nearly shattering his arm in a sublime save on Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Palace seeks to be influential at both ends of table
Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace — 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday

Crystal Palace’s rise out of the drop zone has shaken up the Top Four a bit, too. Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend have helped the Eagles to April wins over Chelsea and Arsenal, and will hope to add Liverpool’s name to the list. Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds are two points clear of fourth place Man City and six ahead of fifth place Manchester United, but have would drop out of the Top Four if the aforementioned clubs win their matches-in-hand the rest of the way. Lost points would hit hard.

Cherries aim to put relegation in rear view mirror
Bournemouth vs. Middlesbrough — 10 a.m. ET Saturday

Eddie Howe‘s Bournemouth opens the day seven points clear of the drop with five matches to play, and a win would lift the Cherries well above the fray. Boro would just like to see safety, sitting six points shy of 17th.

Can Tigers keep up safety pace?
Hull City vs. Watford — 10 a.m. ET Saturday

While the unexpected is possible during the stretch run, the final relegation slot will likely come down to Hull and Swansea. Marco Silva’s Tigers are two points ahead of Swans and just need to maintain that pace barring a miraculous run from Boro. The next obstacle is a Watford side which has claimed three wins in four, the lone setback coming against the rolling Spurs.

Swans looking for any sign of life from the Liberty Stadium

Swansea City vs. Stoke City — 10 a.m. ET Saturday

One point from six matches does not make a successful relegation fight, and Paul Clement‘s side has lost to four lower tier sides since beating Burnley on March 4. Swansea have showed relegation form playing defense-first under Francesco Guidolin, throwing attack-first on Bob Bradley‘s watch, and now in a variety of ways under Clement. Maybe it’s the players?

Will Toffees be able to make improbable run to fifth?
West Ham United vs. Everton — 10 a.m. ET Saturday

Ronald Koeman‘s Toffees can been fairly consistent in piling up points, except when it comes to the teams above it. That’s what is keeping Everton from being a real threat to the Top Four. West Ham is not above Everton, and would love to hit a reset button on the entire season. No way the Toffees foul this up, even on the road, right?

Dyche wishes managers would stop publicly recruiting Burnley players

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Sean Dyche wishes Ronald Koeman and other managers would keep his players’ names out of their mouths, but knows this sort of quasi-recruitment is the name of the game.

Michael Keane has been a very good defender since leaving Manchester United for Burnley, earning caps with the England national team.

[ MORE: What’s Man Utd’s best UCL route? ]

So it’s no surprise that Dyche would like to keep him around Turf Moor, nor that Everton is among a host of clubs who would love to lure the 24-year-old to Goodison Park.

But where should the recruitment stop? Dyche does not like that managers would openly speak of the spoken for.

“I’ve had it with many players and it’s a balance in the sense it’s a compliment in the sense that people think there must be life at Burnley so they think let’s go and have a look and when they do look they think there are some really good players there and then there is that edge of worry that eventually when someone comes in, who are way more powerful than us financially and start pushing the boundaries,” Dyche said.

In some cases, managers are just responding to the media’s questions, but in others there’s a bit of “tapping up” involved in the comments. A player of Keane’s age, skill set, and nationality is always going to be in demand, and a smaller club like Burnley sure would prefer every advantage in keeping them.

Keane has also been linked with an Old Trafford return, too, and he’ll be in demand should he have any desire to leave Burnley.

Koeman: Keep winning and hope for Arsenal, Man Utd to stumble

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Ronald Koeman didn’t love Everton’s start against feisty Burnley, but he did feel much better once his Toffees turned up the heat.

Scoreless at halftime, Koeman’s Toffees scored thrice in the second half to climb into fifth place in the Premier League.

[ RECAP: Everton 3-1 Burnley ]

Everton won’t be looking too hard at that standing given that Manchester United and Arsenal have played three less matches, but the Toffees also aren’t closing the door on keeping their standing.

“It’s a difficult one for Everton but we are in good position at the moment,” Koeman said. “We need to wait. Maybe they lose some more points than they did the last few weeks. Then everything is possible.”

Everton finishes with West Ham, Chelsea, Swansea, Watford, and Arsenal. They’d likely need to take at least 13 points and have the Arsenal match be a win in order to finish higher than 7th.

If they play the way they did in the second half Saturday, that’s a possibility. From EvertonTV:

“Not a 90 minutes good performance. It took 25-30 minutes in the first half to understand what we had to do better. Burnley started with more aggression.

“After the first 45 minutes, with the substitutes we made brought more aggression in the team and maybe more football in the midfield.”

Police investigate Ross Barkley punch incident

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Merseyside Police are reviewing video footage which appears to show Ross Barkley being punched on a night out following Everton’s 4-2 win against Leicester City on Sunday.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

With details scarce at this point, the only evidence we have that this took place is the grainy cell phone footage below which appears to show Barkley first talking to a man and then being punched in the face before falling to the floor as the other individual was dragged away.

It is reported that the incident took place in the early hours of Monday morning in the Santa Chupitos cocktail bar in Liverpool and although there has been no comment from Everton, Merseyside police had the following to say.

“Merseyside Police is aware of footage online reportedly showing an assault in a bar in Liverpool city center. No report of an assault has been received but officers are making enquiries to establish the circumstances of the incident.”

Barkley, 23, played a pivotal role in Sunday’s win for Everton but after the game his manager Ronald Koeman revealed that there is a new contract offer on the table for the England international and the Toffees’ manager appeared angry that the academy product has yet to sign it.

Koeman also said quite simply that if Barkley doesn’t sign the new deal on offer then Everton will sell him. Arsenal and others said to be interested in signing the lifelong Evertonian who often divides opinion with his talent undoubted but sometimes he fails to influence games.

Whether or not any of that led to the incident in question remains to be seen but surely it couldn’t have helped.

The fact that Barkley was also involved in some hefty challenges on Jordan Henderson and Dejan Lovren during the two Merseyside derbies this season probably didn’t help his reputation either, while the ongoing uncertainty around his Everton future has angered some Toffees fans who want him to commit his future to the club.

In recent weeks Barkley has been in good form despite criticism following Everton’s derby defeat to Liverpool on Apr. 1 and he has four goals and eight assists in the Premier League this season.

Now he will face plenty of questions about the incident off the pitch.