By Danny Lewis
AFC Bournemouth are safe and Everton have been without a chance of getting a European spot for quite some time now. Under normal circumstances this would probably be the typical end of season match played at a pedestrian pace and a slight lack of competition throughout the game.
However, these are no normal circumstances. Eddie Howe will be demanding the best from his players as he looks for the highest possible finish in the Cherries’ inaugural Premier League season.
In the meantime Roberto Martinez is under mounting pressure after a mediocre season and an FA Cup exit and so he will be ensuring that his players play to their maximum in order to help him keep his job, the Toffees will also want to bounce back after their disappointing loss to Manchester United at Wembley.
The two sides have met twice this season already, with both games being thrillers. The first meeting was a 3-3 draw at the Vitality Stadium, which saw four goals scored after the 80th minute and an AFC Bournemouth 98th minute equaliser.
The second was an FA Cup match between the two which resulted in a 2-0 win to Everton. The game was not as one sided as the score line suggests though, as a Charlie Daniels penalty was saved by Joel Robles at 0-0. The supporters of both teams will be looking for another great game between these two sides this season.
Cherries could see Max Gradel return from a calf problem, while Adam Smith and Harry Arter remain sidelined due to groin and Achilles problems respectively.
Everton are missing defenders Phil Jagielka, Seamus Coleman and Ramiro Funes Mori, Jagielka and Coleman have hamstring injuries, while Funes Mori is still suspended after seeing red against Liverpool. Gareth Barry is also out with a groin strain.
Danny Lewis’ verdict
Everton 1-2 AFC Bournemouth
Everton are not the strongest team defensively and Cherries should be able to exploit this, especially with Everton missing four defenders through injury. AFC Bournemouth aren’t on the best of runs but Howe will be looking for a good performance from his men and won’t settle for a point. Lukaku and other members of the Everton side will be a big threat but if AFC Bournemouth can contain that then I can see Cherries coming out on top today.