Everton-West Ham United Preview
If West Ham United are going to rebound from their first Premier League defeat in more than two months, they must finally find a way to end their top-division struggles against Everton.
However, the Hammers might have the make up this season to end their 14-match winless stretch in league play against the Toffees on Saturday at Upton Park.
"It shows how difficult Saturday's game will be," West Ham manager Slaven Bilic told the club's official website. "It's a bit of a surprise to me, but it doesn't worry me too much because those games are in the past. It will only affect us if we allow it to."
Bilic has good reason to believe that drought can end this weekend.
West Ham (6-2-3) have enjoyed a strong start to their season and held a 16-7 goal advantage during a 5-2-0 run that ended with last Saturday's 2-0 loss at Watford. After recording 75 shots in the previous four matches, the Hammers placed three of their eight on target while being blanked for the first time this season.
"We weren't on it for sure - we weren't the team we normally are," midfielder Mark Noble told the club's official website. "The run had to come to an end (at some point), but it has come to an end in a disappointing manner.
"You're going to get games like that during the season ... But the manner in which we lost wasn't good enough."
Despite the setback, West Ham are sixth in the Premier League table with 20 points, trailing Spurs on goal differential and five points back of co-leaders Manchester City and Arsenal.
"We've already said in the dressing room that we know we're a very good team with very good players, but it didn't click on the day," Noble added.
The Hammers will need things to click if they're to regroup and beat Everton for the first time since April 21, 2007. Though West Ham played the Toffees to a pair of draws and ultimately advanced on penalties during last season's FA Cup, they've gone 0-4-10 and scored five goals while losing six straight in league competition to the Merseysiders.
"If we think about it too much then it might have an impact on confidence, but we should be able to deal with that," Bilic said. "Every game is different, and you have to go and prove yourself from the first whistle every time."
Everton did so during Sunday's 6-2 rout of Sunderland that ended an 0-1-2 league stretch in which they totaled two goals. Arouna Kone recorded a hat trick and had a assist while Romelu Lukaku added a goal with two assists for the Toffees, who scored 13 times in their first 10 fixtures.
"I think we always have the quality to break teams down," Lukaku told Everton's official website. "I think we should be playing like that all of the time ... The way we performed (Sunday) is promising for the future."
Manager Roberto Martinez has been pleased with the Lukaku-Kone pairing. Lukaku has scored four of his club-leading six league goals in the last five matches and has assisted on four of Kone's five top-division scores.
"Their relationship is vital," Martinez said. "The understanding that they have between them has been important."
Lukaku has scored in six consecutive matches over all competitions against West Ham.