Roberto Martinez wants Everton to make Goodison Park a fortress in the final months of the Premier League season, starting against West Brom on Saturday.
Everton have struggled at home in 2015-16 with only four triumphs from their 13 league matches, the most recent of those coming against Newcastle United on February 3 to end a sequence of five without a win.
Luckily their away form has kept them in the top half of the table with 13 games to play, Martinez’s side only losing once all season on their travels – a 2-1 defeat to Arsenal in October.
The Spanish manager wants that resilience to be transferred to their remaining home matches as Everton look to keep building towards achieving their Champions League qualification ambitions.
“Our away record has been the best, even better than two years ago,” said the Spaniard. “Where we have dropped too many points is at home – we are embracing it as a challenge.
“What’s important is the momentum we’ve got now. The last three performances have been very consistent, we’ve been able to reflect dominance in the games with strong scorelines, it’s about maintaining that in final third of the season.
“I’m looking forward to the two challenges we have, one [is] how many points [we can finish with] and how can we address home form and make Goodison a real fortress.”
Martinez will give John Stones [hamstring] and Tim Howard [knee] as much time as possible to prove their fitness for West Brom’s visit, while Oumar Niasse could make his debut.
Tony Pulis’ side arrive at Goodison Park with a poor head-to-head record against Everton – they have only won once in the last nine meetings – and will be desperate to turn their stuttering form around.
Victory on penalties against Peterborough United saw Albion move into the FA Cup fifth round on Wednesday, but they have not tasted victory in the league since January 2.
Away from The Hawthorns that run is even worse with no win since October, while the last time they collected three points at Everton was November 2010.
Saido Berahino will be in contention for his first Baggies start in the league since October 31 after playing 120 minutes against Peterborough, although Pulis remains concerned by his fitness levels.
“He needed it,” the manager said Berahino’s extended run-out at London Road. “He’s nowhere near as sharp and fit as he was last year so he needs game time.”
While Berahino could feature, the match will come too soon for Chris Brunt (calf), Jonny Evans (hamstring), Callum McManaman (foot) and James Morrison (hamstring), while Gareth McAuley is in doubt after limping off after 19 minutes against Peterborough with a hamstring problem.
Key Opta Stats:
– Everton scored three goals from just four shots on target when they beat West Brom 3-2 at the Hawthorns earlier this season.
– West Bromwich Albion have scored just one goal in the opening 15 minutes of their last 30 Premier League matches.
– Romelu Lukaku, who scored 17 goals in 35 Premier League appearances for West Brom in 2012-13, has scored three goals in his last three league appearances against his former team.
– Everton have conceded 22 goals at Goodison Park this season – the only team in the top five European Leagues to have conceded this many at home this season are Serie A club Frosinone.
– No side has scored more first-half goals in the Premier League this season than Everton (23 – level with Spurs).
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