WILLIE Duncan (@Willie_Duncan) takes the reins for the late game on Saturday between Everton and Middlesbrough.
Everton v Middlesbrough | Saturday 17:30 | Sky Sports 1
There was plenty of talk about the teams from Manchester last weekend as Pep Guardiola’s City claimed bragging rights against Jose Mourinho’s United with a 2-1 win at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon.
The men from Merseyside, though, were pretty impressive too, with Liverpool dismantling Leicester City 4-1 at Anfield before Ronald Koeman’s Everton took centre stage on Monday night.
Romelu Lukaku, having waited six months for a goal for the Toffees, helped himself to three against David Moyes’ Sunderland as Ronald Koeman’s charges romped to victory on Wearside.
Everton have now racked up four successive victories in all competitions and, yet to taste defeat under the stewardship of the former Southampton boss, a few people are beginning to expect good things from the men from Goodison Park this season.
Aitor Karanka and Middlesbrough will travel from Teeside this weekend with the ambition of obliterating that narrative – but I’m not convinced that ‘Boro have enough quality to achieve that objective.
A dire goalless draw with West Bromwich Albion last month was the first time that Middlesbrough have managed a clean sheet in 10 matches on their travels in all competitions, eight of those fixtures against teams playing their football in the second tier of English football.
Even when Lukaku wasn’t at his best, Everton simply did not stop scoring and it is worth remembering that despite finishing in the bottom half of the Premiership table last term, only the Premier League’s top four teams – plus West Ham United – managed more goals than Everton.
Indeed, Everton managed 35 home goals in 2015/16 – as many as Leicester City and Tottenham, more than Arsenal and more than Aston Villa and Sunderland could manage between them!
In short, the Toffees have always had a penchant for finding the net and I don’t see the goals drying up under the stewardship of Koeman – except, of course, at the other end of the pitch and it is in this area that the men from Merseyside seem primed to profit this season.
Everton managed just two clean sheets from their final 12 Premier League matches last season – against Norwich City and Newcastle United respectively – but Koeman’s men have already shut out Stoke City and Sunderland this season, and I think that ‘Boro might be the next to draw a blank when they come up against the toughened-up Toffees.
The hosts have leaked just one goal in their last five Premier League matches at Goodison Park against ‘Boro and, given that only Burnley and Watford have managed fewer shots per game than Karanka’s men so far this season, Middlesbrough may struggle to make much impact at Goodison Park.
The 13/10 quote, therefore, on offer for Everton to keep a clean sheet in Saturday’s showdown is packed with value and, should Koeman’s men put up another solid showing, punters may well profit by backing the Toffees to frustrate Middlesbrough on Merseyside.
Everton v Middlesbrough – Everton to keep a clean sheet (13/10 Bet365)