Romelu Lukaku

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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.

Everton 3-1 Burnley: Toffees carry open second half

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  • Jagielka, Vokes trade goals
  • Barkley produces winner via o.g.
  • Lukaku adds classy insurance goal

Phil Jagielka and Romelu Lukaku helped Everton to a 3-1 win over Burnley at Goodison Park on Saturday.

Ben Mee scored an own goal for Everton’s third, and Sam Vokes won and converted a penalty for the Clarets’ lone marker.

The Toffees rise fifth for the moment, though they’ve played three more matches than both Arsenal and Manchester United.

Burnley sits 14th, eight points clear of the drop zone.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Everton had the better of early play, though the teams traded chances after the quarter-hour mark.

First Burnley did well to stop an Everton attack down the right side, and then Ross Barkley had to clear off the line when Michael Keane‘s header beat Joel Robles.

Joey Barton sent Sam Vokes in on goal, but Phil Jagielka’s pressure allowed Robles to close down the angle and slap away Vokes’ shot.

Barkley had a chance denied by Tom Heaton as the half wound toward halftime, and then saw his deflected free kick just miss the far post.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Things escalated quickly out of the break, with both sides potting goals. First Jagielka continued his scoring ways with a header, and then Vokes converted a penalty to have it 1-1 in short order.

The penalty was another poor mark on Robles’ day, as the keeper dragged down Vokes in seemingly unnecessary fashion.

Everton then looked good money to a match-winner, and Barkley’s shot needed two deflections to find its way past Clarets keeper Tom Heaton.

Lukaku nabbed his goal when he turned and burned Keane before pushing the ball home with the outside of his foot.

Handicapping the PFA Players’ Player of the Year finalists

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Only two of the six nominees for the Professional Footballers Association’s Players’ Player of the Year Award made last year’s shortlist.

And part of that pair should be the favorite to snare the award.

N'Golo Kante has arguably been the best player on the last two Premier League champions, assuming Chelsea goes on to win the league. Considering I’ve argued for his inclusion as a Ballon d’Or finalist, this should come as no surprise.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks ]

With respect to Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses, Kante is the most impactful on-field difference between 2015-16 and 2016-17 Chelsea.

Teammate Eden Hazard‘s return to form has no doubt been a catalyst for the side, but which player is more replaceable in the Blues’ side? We’re not talking like-for-like, but it’s more difficult to argue that Chelsea is still in first Nemanja Matic bearing Kante’s burden than with Pedro or Willian taking on more of Hazard’s responsibilities.

This is a player’s vote, which is a huge factor. Will fellow PL players be more swayed by dizzying dribbles or the man disrupted their attack to turn possession, defense, and attack on its ear? Unfortunately we can’t combine Kante and Harry Kane to make some sort of N’Garry Kante who puts up wild numbers while doing the sometimes unnoticed things in the middle of the park.

That takes us to Kane, who missed eight PL matches for Spurs, which seems a hefty sum in a race for such an honor, and Tottenham was unbeaten in that octet.

Alexis Sanchez has been phenomenal in leading Arsenal’s attack, but the club hasn’t matched his production. Zlatan Ibrahimovic may fall victim to the same fate, though he’s been the only goal scorer for Manchester United in seven PL contests.

Romelu Lukaku is having a wonderful season for Everton, but has too often gone quiet in big Everton fixtures. The Toffees could be fifth or better had Lukaku found the back of the net or been the prime set-up man for a goal in either Merseyside Derby loss or a pair of 1-1 draws against Manchester United.

If you’re asking for a ranking…

  1. Kante
  2. Sanchez
  3. Ibrahimovic
  4. Hazard
  5. Kane
  6. Lukaku

Everton 4-2 Leicester: Toffees take wild game from start to finish

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Everton came into their matchup with Leicester City at Goodison Park having seen 22 goals fly into the back of the home nets in six Premier League games through 2017 so far. That total only climbed on Sunday.

Attacking play was on display from literally the opening whistle, as Everton scored 30 seconds into the match, setting the tone for a wild game from start to finish. The match saw three goals in the opening 10 minutes, five goals in the first half, and six goals overall.

The game was off to a flying start, as Everton set Goodison Park alight right from the opening kickoff. Kevin Mirallas barged his way through the Leicester midfield in the opening minute, and upon reaching the box, he was hauled down in the penalty area. Credit referee Bobby Madley for allowing play to continue, as the ball was touched to Tom Davies as Mirallas slid to the turf, and Davies smashed it in with his left foot for a 1-0 lead less than a minute in.

The home side, buoyed by its cracking start, poured men forward hoping to capitalize on the early momentum, and it would do them in. The early lead was wasted as Leicester hit on the counter with Everton stuck in the attacking half, and Islam Slimani put the Foxes back level.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Leicester would complete the quick comeback and go in front inside 10 minutes in stunning fashion. With Jamie Vardy earning a foul on the left edge of the penalty area, Marc Albrighton delivered a simply stunning free-kick, picking out the top right corner from a very tight angle. Everton goalkeeper Joel Robles will be highly disappointed with his failure to read the flight of the ball, but the effort was deserving of a 2-1 lead.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

With Everton suddenly trailing, they turned to the Premier League’s leading scorer, and he delivered. Ross Barkley on the right flank put it on a plate with a pinpoint cross, and Lukaku was there for a simple and powerful header from point-blank range.

Everton should have had a third as the goal was gaping with five minutes to go until halftime. A slide-tackle by Davies sent the ball perfectly weighted to spring Barkley on the break, and while it looked that he had rounded Kasper Schmeichel, but the Leicester City goalkeeper recovered to get a slight touch and foil Barkley’s attempt.

But the Toffees would make amends on the ensuing corner, as Phil Jagielka rose high above the defense to glance a header into the far corner, putting Everton back in front 3-2. It’s the first time all Premier League season that two teams have combined to score five goals in the first half.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

After the break, the fun continued. Lukaku bagged a brace, left entirely unmarked at the back post of a corner, and as the ball trickled to him, he thumped it home across the face of goal for a 4-2 Everton lead.

As the game ticked into the final 10 minutes, Leicester City looked to change the tide by bringing on attacking players Riyad Mahrez and Leonardo Ulloa. The latter found himself with a great chance immediately after coming on, but his 78th minute header off a corner pinged straight into the head of Idrissa Gueye directly in front of net. They got another big chance with three minutes to go as Ulloa headed a Mahrez cross on target, but it was stopped by Robles, and the rebound was cleared by Jagielka with Ahmed Musa looking to pounce.

The win left Everton in 7th position but brought them up level with Arsenal on points. For Leicester City, they miss the chance to pull into the top half of the table, instead sitting level on points with three other teams muddied in 11th place.

PL Sunday preview: Sunderland-Man United; surging Foxes visit Everton

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Dreams of a top-four finish are quickly slipping away from Manchester United, just as Premier League status has (finally) done for Sunderland; Everton reside in no man’s land, between the top-six miles clear of eighth place, while Leicester City have finally shaken their PL title hangover.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Sunderland vs. Manchester United — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The objective was clear: Jose Mourinho was expected to return Man United to the PL’s top-four in his first season at Old Trafford. Reality is equally clear, and harsh: with two games in hand, and a seven-point deficit to fourth-place Manchester City to overcome, the Red Devils need their points three at a time from here on out; no side in the PL has drawn more games this season (12 — tied with Middlesbrough). While Mourinho’s men are unbeaten in their last 20 league games, dating all the way back Oct. 29, they’ve won just half of those games, dropping a season-killing 20 points in the process.

Sunderland, on the other hand, have finally run out of lives. After escaping near certain relegation (doing so in stunning fashion each time) in each of the last four seasons, David Moyes will almost certainly (we think) take the Black Cats down to the Championship this summer. 10 points currently stand between last-place Sunderland and Hull City in 17th; even a win on Sunday wouldn’t move them off the bottom of the table. Sunderland have just one win in their last 13 PL games played. One potential silver lining: they did beat United at home last season.

INJURIES: Sunderland — OUT: Jan Kirchoff (knee), Paddy McNair (knee), Duncan Watmore (knee) | Man United — OUT: Juan Mata (groin), Chris Smalling (knee), Phil Jones (toe); QUESTIONABLE: Wayne Rooney (ankle), Ashley Young (knock)

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Spurs apply pressure, Chelsea unfazed ]

Everton vs. Leicester City — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

From relegation-threatened defending champions, to totally clear of the drop zone and safely enjoying mid-table obscurity, all in six weeks’ time — the 2016-17 season has been an emotional roller coaster for Leicester. Harkening back to last season’s title-winning fairytale is Jamie Vardy‘s timely return to form, as the reigning Player of the Season has bagged five goals in his last five PL games to match his tally from his first 22 league appearances this season. After 25 games, the point at which Claudio Ranieri was fired, the Foxes sat 18th in the league table. Five straight wins have seen Craig Shakespeare’s side rise all the way up to 11th with a chance to climb into the top half on Sunday.

As for Everton, a derby defeat at the hands of Liverpool, followed by a 1-1 draw with Manchester United three days later, brought to a screeching halt all momentum created by a stretch of just one loss in 12 games (eight wins) from Boxing Day to St. Patrick’s Day. Romelu Lukaku (21 goals) remains top of the Golden Boot race, two clear of Harry Kane, though the big Belgian failed to find the back of the net in each of the last week’s disappointing results. Prior to last weekend, the 23-year-old had scored nine goals in five PL games.

INJURIES: Everton — OUT: Ramiro Funes Mori (knee), Seamus Coleman (leg), James McCarthy (hamstring), Yannick Bolasie (knee), Muhamed Besic (knee); RETURNING: Morgan Schneiderlin (calf) | Leicester — OUT: Wes Morgan (back); QUESTIONABLE: Nampalys Mendy (ankle)