Everton vs Portsmouth match preview

Last updated : 03 January 2005 By Keith Allman
Pompey travel to Merseyside on Tuesday to face an Everton team that have surprised pundits and fans alike this season. After the sale of Wayne Rooney and boardroom disruption before the season began, many had the Toffees down as relegation candidates. But thanks to a solid team ethic, plus the midfield pairing of Cahill and Gravesen, it's been anything but a struggle - currently they sit 4th in the league, and have just completed the club record signing of James Beattie. He'll be paraded on the pitch before the match tomorrow night, so be sure to give him the friendly welcome he deserves.

The entire time they've been up in the lofty heights of the table, there's been one question on the lips of the media - "how long can it last"? Hardly unexpected from journalists obsessed with the big names of Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea, and who can't believe that a team without big names, but instead built on work ethic and good tactics, can dare to break into the Champions League positions.

Although as it happens, Everton have hit a minor blip recently, and perhaps this is the best time to play them. They lost 2-0 at Charlton, followed up by a 5-2 thrashing by Spurs. Nigel Martyn, who has been in great form this season, is out and has been replaced by Richard Wright between the sticks. Wright, you may remember from his time at Arsenal, is rubbish. It can either go one of two ways really; we stop them from scoring an early goal, they get nervous and we take advantage, or they come up with a point to prove and thrash us.

Hopefully, the former.

Dejan Stefanovic was on the bench on Saturday but, with the suspension of Andy Griffin, is likely to start the match in the centre of defence. Linvoy Primus is likely to move across to fill the right back slot, a position that he is not comfortable with naturally but has still managed to excel himself in recent times. David Unsworth didn't get into the squad at the weekend, so the best he can hope for against his former club is a place on the bench. Taylor has done brilliantly at left back recently anyway, so dropping the former England U21 international would perhaps be a little harsh.

All strikers, bar LuaLua, are fit and ready for duty. Yakubu had a bit of a stinker against Norwich, as well as being lucky not to get sent off, but I'd still expect him start up front alongside Kamara. Fuller can be brought into the reckoning later if we're struggling, as he's done well from the bench lately.

One man who definitely won't be featuring is Eyal Berkovic, as the Israeli is ruled out through flu. Midfield selection has had a habit of throwing up some interesting surprises since Velimir took charge, so it would be hard to predict what he has in mind. Mezague to make another surprise appearance? Faye - who is in good form - to come back into the side? Quashie to continue his "shoot on sight" policy, thus endangering all and sundry in Row Z?

I'm slightly confident we can nick something from this game but, at the same time, I know that every time I've said that lately we haven't done very well. Everton are a bit of a bogey team for us too; since promotion to the Premiership, they've beaten us on all three occasions, every time in games in which we've played poorly. Let's hope to reverse the trend, as it's a crucial time of the season. Although we've played well lately, the facts tell us we've won once out of the last six.