Everton-West Brom Preview
Life is sometimes difficult as a West Bromwich Albion fan. The club rarely battles for cup success, almost never challenges for the Premier League title, and routinely found themselves fighting to stave off relegation over the past few seasons.
But the Baggies' faithful were treated to a nice opening weekend win over Crystal Palace, and hope to continue that success at home against Everton on Saturday.
The Baggies failed to earn three points until their fourth contest of the season last term, and ended that campaign on a nine-match winless run after knocking off Manchester United, 1-0, on March 25. Needless to say, Salomon Rondon's 74th-minute winner against Palace was a welcome relief for both West Brom fans and manager Tony Pulis, who has yet to truly dip into the transfer market as the club settles into the ownership of Chinese entrepreneur Guochuan Lai.
West Brom captain Darren Fletcher hailed Rondon's performance against Palace.
"Salo was fantastic," Fletcher said. "He ran the line, held the ball up and battled really well against their two centre-backs. He looks fit and strong and is definitely in better condition than he was last season which is good to see.
"I think Salomon would tell you that too. I thought he was a great player for us last season but this season he looks even better. He came from the Russian league and didn't speak the language but he is now mixing with the squad a lot more and he's a lot more confident."
The club heads into this fixture a bit lighter after defender James Chester was sold to Aston Villa. He made nine appearances for the Baggies since joining for 8 million pounds last summer from Hull City.
Ronald Koeman's first Premier League contest as Everton boss did not go as planned as the blue half of Liverpool was held to a 1-1 stalemate against Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park. Koeman's boys got off to a dream start when Ross Barkley found the back of the net for the hosts in the fifth minute. However, Erik Lamela fired home an equaliser just before the hour mark to force a share of the spoils.
Despite the draw, Koeman was largely pleased with his club's effort and of newcomers Maarten Steckelenburg, Idrissa Gueye and Mason Holgate.
"We lost a bit of control of the game in the last part of the second half, but overall I am very happy with the performance," he explained. "The first 45 minutes was really excellent - the energy we put in the game and the reaction of the fans supporting the team. We had the best chances. Before halftime we had a big opportunity to score the second goal which would have made it a totally different second half."
"(Steckelenburg's) saves were very important in that stage of the second half," the manager continued. "Tottenham created the best chances in the final stages and you need to have a good goalkeeper to make saves in key moments and he has that quality."
Having already made an addition to their forward corps in signing Yannick Bolasie from Crystal Palace, Koeman reiterated that he would not hesitate to continue to add to the squad should the right deal present itself.
"We always look at players (that will make us) have a stronger squad. That's one of our jobs to do - to improve the team," Koeman remarked. "If we don't think we have that type of player in the squad, then we will sign that player.
"Maybe why we are doing our business a little bit late is because I took the time in the preseason to know what we need. We also have young players in the academy and we don't like to stop the improvement of young players. What we need in the team, we will bring in."
West Brom claimed the last meeting between the sides with a 1-0 victory over the Toffees on Feb. 13 - courtesy of a winning strike from Rondon after 14 minutes.