November 26, 2015

Everton will be looking to underline their credentials as one of the best sides in the Premier League on Saturday when they travel to the English south coast to take on Bournemouth at Dean Court.

Roberto Martinez's Everton (5-5-3) smashed Aston Villa 4-0 in their last game and have enjoyed a terrific month to surge up the table. With touted title-contenders Tottenham just four points above them and only Manchester City and Leicester having scored more goals, the Toffees rightly consider themselves to be contenders for the European places at least.

In contrast, Saturday's hosts Bournemouth haven't won in seven and have conceded more goals (27) than any other team in the top flight. Saturday's 2-2 draw with struggling Swansea at least stopped the rot following four consecutive defeats, but the Cherries are struggling to show they have what it takes to stay in the division beyond their debut season.

Despite the disparity between the two sides, Everton boss Martinez is wary of his opponents.

"Bournemouth are a team who have been very unfortunate this season," the coach explained. "They started in the Premier League with a real swagger and a lot of the good things that they produced in the Championship they were starting to produce in the Premier League. They got impressive results and then they lost two or three very influential players and that made things very difficult.

"On Saturday we'll have to be very much aware of Bournemouth's strengths, make sure we keep the concentration levels and make sure we can cope with the physicality and energy that they're going to bring."

Martinez is right to highlight injuries as a major factor in Bournemouth's struggles in their top-flight debut.

The Cherries have lost a whole host of players, including new centre back Tyrone Mings, top-scoring striker Callum Wilson and record signing Max Gradel.

The difficult job of keeping the new boys in the Premier League has become even harder as a result for manager Eddie Howe, but the young coach revealed he's hopeful of seeing Gradel back in the squad for the run-in.

"Max is on course and is doing well. He is happy with his knee but the time frame given will be the time frame when he is back.

"I am very hopeful we will see him this season. Providing he doesn`t have any setbacks at this stage and he carries on as he is, I would like to think we will see him, without putting too much pressure on him, in late February."

A win for the Toffees would move them closer to the top of the table, but they will have to do so without centre back Phil Jagielka, who remains out with a knee ligament injury. Leighton Baines, Tony Hibbert, Bryan Oviedo, Tyias Browning and Steven Pienaar are also all doubts for Saturday's game.

However, Everton will have striker Romelu Lukaku in their ranks, who has scored seven his last seven league games and is one of just five players in the Premier League era to have scored 50 goals before turning 23 years of age. The Belgian striker is part of a ruthless strike force which has converted a higher percentage of its chances into goals (one in five) than any other side in the league.

All of the Toffees' 24 goals have come from open play.

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