The signs couldn’t be much better for the Toffees, after a recent run of form has seen them move up the Premier League table and also advance to the Capital One Cup quarter-finals – courtesy of a win over Norwich City on penalties.
It was last Sunday’s flurry of goals at Goodison Park that will have the fans purring in anticipation, however, after Martinez’s side dismantled struggling Sunderland 6-2 – a hattrick from Arouna Koné amongst the highlights in a game where Everton really showcased their attacking potential.
“They are going to be challenging to finish in the top five”
– Roberto Martinez
Martinez knows, however, that Sunday’s trip will far from be a walk in the park, as he paid the London club a high compliment in suggesting that they are a “top five side.” Speaking about the Hammers’ strong results – and great performances – this season, Martinez described Bilić’s side as “very impressive” suggesting that the Toffees would definitely have to prepare properly and “make sure we’re ready” for the game this weekend.
Martinez is not wrong in his assessment. West Ham’s season has already included wins over Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool – and the Hammers have lost just three games all campaign. Bilić’s impact has been instantaneous and they are a threat for any team – despite their poor record in fixtures against Everton.
The Toffees will take heart in Watford’s 2-0 win over West Ham last weekend – a result that ended a seven-match unbeaten run for Bilić’s side – and will be encouraged by the fact that West Ham haven’t won a game in this fixture for the last 14 encounters.
With both teams pushing for the Europa League places – West Ham sitting fifth, just below Tottenham Hotspur on goal difference, and Everton just four points adrift in ninth – three points for either side would be a big boost to their chances. Expect a lively, competitive affair when the teams come out on Saturday afternoon.
For West Ham and Bilić, they will have to take to the field without James Collins, after his red card in the defeat to Watford last weekend left him suspended. Pedro Obiang and Diafra Sako are also doubts – both with thigh problems – but Winston Reid could return after his spell on the substitutes bench, while Alex Song is also thought to be almost back to full match fitnress.
The visitors have issues of their own, with captain Phil Jagiela still out with a knee injury – a problem that could keep him sidelined for two months. Replacement Ramiro Funes Mori looks set to continue in his place. Steven Pienaar and Tony Hibbert will not play a part in the game, and Bryan Oviedo has a hamstring issue, but Muhammed Besic, Tom Cleverley and Leighton Baines have all been in training this week.