MX23RW : Friday, December 14 10:45:39

Preview: Everton vs. Burnley

Sports Mole previews the Premier League match between Everton and relegation-threatened Burnley at Goodison Park.

Burnley will continue their bid to escape the relegation zone when they travel to Goodison Park to face Everton in the Premier League this weekend.

Both sides have seen their form improve in recent weeks, with the Clarets just two points from safety, while Roberto Martinez's side are closing in on a place in the top half of the table.


Aaron Lennon of Everton celebrates scoring the opening goal with Seamus Coleman and Ross Barkley of Everton during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Everton at Liberty Stadium on April 11, 2015© Getty Images

It was not that long ago that the Toffees were in danger of being dragged into the relegation battle, but three wins and a draw in their last four outings have turned the team's season around, leaving them 12 points clear of 18th ahead of this match.

Everton were disappointed to concede a season-half equaliser to Swansea City in their 1-1 draw at the Liberty Stadium last time out, but the draw extends their unbeaten run, which stretches back to before the international break.

Everton will fancy their chances of extending that run this weekend, as they have lost just three times at Goodison Park this season, although they have drawn almost half of their 15 fixtures at home this campaign.

Martinez has been full of praise for goalkeeper Tim Howard during the week, with the American having kept eight clean sheets in the league so far this season - more than a number of sides above them in the table, including Tottenham Hotspur and Stoke City.

Scoring goals has been something of an issue for the team though, as they have found the back of the net just 40 times, which is just twice more than 18th-placed QPR.

However, they have been more of an attacking force in recent weeks, scoring in each of their last four matches after a run of just two goals in the five matches before that stretch.

Everton have a mixed run between now and the end of the season, hosting Manchester United and Spurs in their remaining games, while also facing the likes of Sunderland and Aston Villa, who still need points to make sure they are in the top flight next season.

Recent form: LLWWWD
Recent form (all competitions): WWLWWD


Manager Sean Dyche of Burnley reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Burnley at St Mary's Stadium on March 21, 2015© Getty Images

Sean Dyche's side come into the match sitting in the relegation zone, but they know that a win at Goodison Park could be enough to lift them out of the bottom three, particularly with QPR, who sit just above them, not in action this weekend.

Burnley have shown that they are capable of fighting for their place in the top flight in recent weeks, following up a win over Manchester City last month with a goalless draw against Spurs, but they were narrowly beaten by Arsenal last weekend.

Finding the back of the net has been a major issue for the Lancashire side in the league this season, with Burnley scoring more than once just six times, and just once since their 1-1 draw with Chelsea back in February.

Burnley can be a stubborn defensive side though, keeping seven clean sheets - the same number as West Ham and Spurs - while letting in 50 goals, which is one fewer than Newcastle.

As the end of the season nears, talk of Danny Ings moving on as well as Dyche being linked with Derby County may have proved something of a distraction for the Clarets.

If they can keep their focus in the final weeks of the season, they can still avoid the drop as they face a number of the teams around them, including Leicester City and Hull City, with ninth-placed West Ham the trickiest fixture remaining.

Recent form: LLWLDL

Team News

Romelu Lukaku in action for Everton on November 22, 2014© Getty Images

Everton are expecting to have top-scorer Romelu Lukaku back after a two-match absence with a hamstring injury following a successful return to training this week.

Leon Osman will need a late fitness test as he continues to battle a groin problem, while Aiden McGeady has also been back in training after recovering from a minor back injury.

Bryan Oviedo is still out, but the manager is expecting him to feature again this season, while Darron Gibson remains sidelined with a fractured metatarsal.

Meanwhile, Burnley have rarely made changes to their starting lineup this season, having stuck with the same XI for the match against Arsenal last week after drawing with Spurs the week before.

The club have reported no fresh injuries from the defeat to the Gunners, so Dyche will have the option to select the same players again for this match.

Everton possible starting lineup:
Howard, Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Baines, Barry, Lennon, McCarthy, Osman, Kone, Lukaku

Burnley possible starting lineup:
Heaton, Trippier, Duff, Shackell, Mee, Boyd, Arfield, Jones, Barnes, Vokes, Ings

Head To Head

When the sides met at Turf Moor earlier in the season, Everton came away with a comfortable 3-1 win, with Samuel Eto'o scoring twice in his brief spell with the club, while Lukaku was also on the scoresheet.

When Burnley were last in the Premier League in the 2009-10 season, each side claimed one win, with Everton beating their opponents 2-0 in the last meeting at Goodison Park.

Neither side has dominated this fixture in their 77 previous meetings though, with Burnley winning 22, Everton claiming 31 and 24 resulting in draws.

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We say: Everton 2-1 Burnley

Everton have been in impressive form over the last month and the return of Lukaku should give the home side more firepower going forward. Burnley will not make it easy, but the hosts should have enough to secure all three points.

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Who will win Saturday's Premier League match between Everton and Burnley?

Roberto Martinez, manager of Everton looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Everton at KC Stadium on January 1, 2015
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