Weekend results make West Brom trip a must-win

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

AllsportRoberto Martinez's Everton will be on the hunt for all three points on Monday night versus a new-look West Brom.

Six months is a short time in football. The two clubs facing off at the Hawthorns on Monday can attest to that. Led by Steve Clarke, West Brom looked every bit the settled side when rolling up to Goodison in August. Everton, by comparison, were still attempting to find their feet under Roberto Martinez.

- Report: Martinez wants new striker

Fast-forward to the present day: the scenario has turned full circle. As West Brom prepare for their first match under new manager Pepe Mel, it is Everton boasting the structured approach. Continuing to hone their patient passing skills, the Blues are a different animal to the dysfunctional one evident in the corresponding fixture.

One of the main reasons for that is the goalscoring exploits of Romelu Lukaku, who was still warming the Chelsea bench when these two sides fought out a 0-0 draw in the opening month of the season.

Having bagged 17 goals while on loan at the hosts last season, the Belgian is attempting to reach double figures for the visitors this time around. However, with Nikica Jelavic finally departing for Hull, the scoring burden looks to be weighing heavily on Lukaku.

This may go some way toward explaining why he has just a solitary goal from his last eight appearances. Even when Jelavic was on the bench, it felt like there was a genuine lack of competition for the lone striker position. There was nobody able to put pressure on and provide Lukaku with a breather.

Given his pace and power, it is easy to forget that Lukaku is still only 20 years old. There are times when the youngster looks in need of a rest, but Everton cannot afford the luxury with current alternatives comprising of mostly makeshift options.

Needing Lukaku back to his best, the Toffees will be chomping at the proverbial bit after watching all bar one of the Top 6 secure three points over the weekend -- results elsewhere only serve to ramp up the pressure for this West Midlands encounter.

There is, however, an added incentive for Martinez and his players. Since Liverpool left the European door ajar by way of their draw against Aston Villa, victory would push the Blues into the last of those coveted Champions League places.

Slipping down to sixth, as an ever-improving Tottenham side picked up another away success, the Toffees also saw Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea press on with what looks increasingly like a three-team race for the title.

Unfortunately, with three points a must, few would opt for a trip to West Brom. The Baggies are tough opponents at the Hawthorns: Everton have lost and failed to score on four of their last six visits. As it happens, Victor Anichebe, who now resides in the opposition ranks, was the last player in royal blue to score on this ground.

Considering recent meetings, the visitors could certainly do without the inevitable lift provided by the appointment of Mel. More often than not, the arrival of a new manager helps to generate a feel good factor; West Brom supporters need only glance at the man in the opposing dugout for evidence.

Also, there is usually a noticeable increase in performance and perspiration from the players when under new management; each individual has a fresh start and a chance to impress the head coach.

Still, notwithstanding the managerial addition for the hosts, the visitors will travel with confidence and no little self-belief, and rightly so. The well-drilled defence is the best travelled in the division -- conceding just ten goals conceded on the road -- and level with Arsenal as joint best overall, while four away wins is the same amount managed in the whole of last season.


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