Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Premier League preview: Everton vs. Middlesbrough

1 Comment
  • Everton one of four remaining unbeaten sides
  • Middlesbrough won points in three of four games
  • Everton — 3rd, on 10 points; Boro — 9th, on 5 points

A pair of surprise performers in early days of the 2016-17 Premier League season, Everton and Middlesbrough, will meet at Goodison Park on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with a chance to further solidify their respective places as top-half teams.

In the case of Everton, the Ronald Koeman era could hardly have gotten off to a better start. After arriving from Southampton in the summer, Koeman’s Toffees have dropped just two points on the season, in an opening-day draw with Tottenham Hotspur. Week by week, the results have been better and better, too, culminating in the 3-0 thrashing of Sunderland on Monday, in which Romelu Lukaku opened his account for the season by scoring a hat trick in 11 second-half minutes. Perhaps most impressive for Everton, though, is their joint-best defensive record — two goals conceded in four games, the same as Tottenham.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE 

For Boro, it’s all about bouncing back from the season’s first defeat, at home against Crystal Palace last weekend, and chipping away at the 40-point target that will have been set forward by Aitor Karanka before the season. Cristhian Stuani, who scored a brace in Boro’s victory over Sunderland three weeks ago, and Jordan Rhodes are each a late fitness concern for Karanka.

INJURIES: Everton OUT: James McCarty (groin), Muhamed Besic (knee surgery), Tyias Browning (knee) | Middlesbrough OUT: Fabio (knee), Grant Leadbitter (groin); QUESTIONABLE: Cristhian Stuani (groin), Jordan Rhodes (knee)

What they’re saying

Koeman, on Everton’s strong start: “The start is good but I have the experience of knowing it is difficult to keep the momentum because every game is a fight. It’s not about the name of the opponent – you can win or lose against everybody. The Premier League is unpredictable. You need to prepare yourself to be at your best level and we’d like to continue our good start but it’s not so easy.”

Adam Clayton, on fighting for PL status: “I think barring Saturday we’ve acquitted ourselves very well. I don’t think we should have lost the game, I think we deserved at least a point. But the result was disappointing. Teams have the quality to put in a goal against you at any time. Concentration over 95 minutes is imperative, you’ve got to stay on top of it as a collective, if one switches off it could lead to a goal.”

Prediction

Everton were woeful at home last season (6W-5D-8L), and despite the four points they’ve won from two games on Merseyside this season, they’ve still been better away from home. Boro have conceded multiple goals just once on the season, and just one goal in two games away from home. They can slow Everton’s stride a bit and snatch an unlikely point. Everton 1-1 Boro.

Transfer rumor roundup: Everton join Zaha chase; Matuidi to Man Utd?

Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A roundup of Saturday’s biggest transfer rumors from around the world, including those involving a few Premier League clubs…

[ MORE: PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly” ]

Wilfried Zaha is one of the most wanted men in England, with Arsenal reportedly hot on his trail all summer. An deal between the Gunners and Crystal Palace is yet  to transpire, though, which has perhaps left the door open for Everton to sneak through and sign the 26-year-old Ivory Coast international.

Arsenal would obviously pay more in wages, but are yet to meet Palace’s valuation of their talisman. If Everton is the club that calls with the requisite figures on offer, it wouldn’t be the worst landing place for Zaha. With Arsenal yet to make a meaningful signing this summer, and the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny already gone or on their way out, the 2019-20 season could see the Gunners take a step back, opening the door for — you guessed it — Everton to break into the top-five… or -four.


Speaking of Ramsey, his arrival at Juventus has perhaps made Blaise Matuidi surplus to requirements, which means he could be available for cut-rate price.

Manchester United seem to be perennially in need of influential central midfielders, especially this summer after the departure of Ander Herrera and the failure of a signing that was Fred last summer. Man United have reportedly been in contact with Juve about the 32-year-old, as have Paris Saint-Germain and Everton.


Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is another midfielder who’s been linked with United, but he’ll likely just as much as, if not more than, the $59-million fee paid for Fred. Milinkovic-Savic seemed a surefire target for the world’s top clubs after a star’s showing at last summer’s World Cup in Russia, but the 24-year-old remained at Lazio and is still yet to move 12 months later.


Patrick Cutrone was one of Europe’s breakout stars of the 2018-19 season, now the 21-year-old AC Milan forward is reportedly high atop Wolverhampton Wanderers’ shopping list this summer. He won’t come cheap — Milan are expected to demand nearly $30 million — but he could offer some serious insurance in the event of an injury to Raul Jimenez.

PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly”

Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images
1 Comment

Premier League interim chief executive Richard Masters says that referees have ben instructed “to use the referee review area a bit more sparingly” and rely on the numerous video-assistant referees (VAR) at their disposal to make simple calls upon review when video review is instituted in the PL next month.

[ MORE: Lukaku latest: Man United reject $67-million bid from Inter Milan ]

Following the 2019 Women’s World Cup, where far too many trip to the monitor were made by the center referees, the PL is keen on ensuring that “the Premier League or English football [is not] interrupted, or the pace of the game [is not] changed.” It sounds very much like a “less is more” approach  — quotes from the BBC:

“I think fans want to see those clear and obvious mistakes changed and put right. But they don’t want to see the Premier League or English football interrupted, or the pace of the game changed.

“I think the only difference you might see is the referees using the referee review area a bit more sparingly and relying more on the VAR for the more subjective decisions.

“But we are putting something new into the Premier League and if it needs to be refined or improved or tweaked we will look at it when the moment arises.”

In theory, this should work quite well for the PL. Many of the decisions that referees go to the monitor to review themselves could easily be made by the “fifth official.” If it’s obvious to the VAR and he/she can make the call with 100 percent certainty, the center ref should always take their decision in the name of keeping the game flowing. If the VAR isn’t so sure, or it’s a more subjective call that should be made by the person making 99 percent of the game’s calls, go to the monitor. But do so quickly.

Lukaku latest: Man United reject $67-million bid from Inter Milan

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
1 Comment

Given two key factors — the date on the calendar and how far apart the two sides appear to be in their respective valuations — it’s looking increasingly likely that Romelu Lukaku will still be a Manchester United player when the upcoming Premier League season starts, despite numerous bids by Inter Milan this summer.

[ MORE: Borussia Dortmund tops Liverpool 3-2 at Notre Dame ]

According to reports out of the UK, Man United have rejected Inter’s latest bid, said to be for $67.5 million. The Red Devils paid $96 million for the big Belgian forward just two summers ago and appear hellbent on recouping most, if not all, of their investment.

Antonio Conte called Lukaku “an important player for us” this week in an attempt to further unsettle the 26-year-old, but that doesn’t appear to have shaken United’s resolve in holding out for the fee they desire.

[ MORE: Wolves top Man City on penalties in PL Asia Trophy final ]

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is growing tired of answering questions about the saga, especially since there has been little to no progress made in recent days and weeks. When pressed on the topic again this week, he said he had “no more updates.”

Wolves top Man City on penalties in PL Asia Trophy final

Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The 2019 Premier League Asia Trophy wrapped up on Saturday, as four PL sides took the field in Shanghai, China…

[ MORE: Borussia Dortmund tops Liverpool 3-2 at Notre Dame ]

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-0 (3-2 PKs) Man City

Wolves turned in a fantastic defensive display against the two-time reigning PL champions, indicating that Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side is very much ready for the start of the season. Man City had plenty of the ball in dangerous areas, but Wolves were quick to close off the passages when City typically dominate.

Wolves captain Conor Coady was part of the stellar defensive performance and he lauded some of the young players who entered the game as second-half substitutes and saw the game out to 0-0.

“To beat City at any point is a great accomplishment for us,” he said after the game. “We rode our luck at times but I thought the young boys were outstanding”

David Silva had perhaps the game’s best scoring chance in the 78th minute, but Rui Patricio made a top-drawer save to deny the Spaniard’s curling effort at the last possible moment.

Silva and Ilkay Gundogan began the penalty shootout with back-to-back efforts saved by Patricio. 20-year-old forward Lukas Nmecha was also denied on City’s fifth and final attempt.

Newcastle United 1-0 West Ham United

Newly appointed head coach Steve Bruce watched as an observer, due to “the terms of his visa,” as his Newcastle side beat Manuel Pellegrini‘s West Ham 1-0 in the third-place playoff.

Yoshinori Muto bagged the game’s only goal in the 34th minute. Jamie Sterry whipped in a cross from the right wing that curled around a pair of defenders at the near post and presented itself to Muto, still with plenty of work to do, for a first-time finish.