- 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.
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.”
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.