West Ham host Everton at the London Stadium in a Premier League clash which takes on little more significance than playing the season to a close for both sides.
Both teams have endured somewhat underwhelming campaigns, underachieving on much of what was expected of them at the start of the season, and will be hoping that a relatively solid end to this term will give them the foundations to build on ahead of next season.
West Ham had flirted dangerously with the relegation zone for much of the second half of the current campaign, but an upturn in form in recent weeks has seen David Moyes’ side pull themselves safely clear of the bottom three by six points. The Hammers had hoped for greater things at the London Stadium, but will now turn to the challenges of next season.
Everton, meanwhile, began the season with a host of big name summer signings on show and harboured hopes of an outside challenge to the top four. A top six finish would have represented a decent return, but Sam Allardyce’s side instead look set to finish eighth, and Evertonians will be hoping for greater progress next term.
West Ham fought impressively to earn a solid 0-0 draw at home to Manchester United on Thursday night, having survived United’s dominance in the game and restricted Jose Mourinho’s visitors to settling for a point.
It was a performance which epitomised the defensive improvements from West Ham since David Moyes took charge after Slaven Bilic was sacked as manager in November, showing a resilience and desire to fight for the results which their improved performances deserve.
A 2-0 away win at Leicester five days earlier gave the Hammers a considerable boost and a greater sense of pride to finish the season with and more optimism ahead of the next campaign.
Everton, meanwhile, are enjoying a five-game unbeaten run to end their season on solid terms. A last gasp equaliser from Tom Davies earned the Toffees an unlikely point at home to the ten men of Southampton last weekend.
Two consecutive victories prior to that, a 1-0 success at home against Newcastle and a 2-0 away win at Huddersfield, have provided reason to believe that Allardyce’s side are stronger and have developed a greater winning mentality towards the climax of the current campaign.
West Ham’s previous meeting with Everton will be one which David Moyes’ men will be keen to forget heading into this weekend’s game.
A thumping Wayne Rooney hat-trick inspired the Toffees to a 4-0 thrashing of the visitors at Goodison Park shortly after Moyes had taken over at West Ham in November.
West Ham dominated possession in that match but had no end product to show for it, as Everton blew the Hammers away on Merseyside.
One of the key Everton threats for West Ham to watch out for this time out will be the pace and power of the Toffees’ wingers. Yannick Bolasie and Theo Walcott present a daunting prospect for any opposition defence to face.
Declan Rice and Aaron Cresswell will be the two West Ham defenders with the greatest responsibility to deal with Everton’s wide men. David Moyes is likely to again field a back three which features Cresswell on the left and Rice on the right of the backline.
With Yannick Bolasie likely to line up on the left-hand side of Everton’s attack, it will be Rice who is tasked with containing the powerful DR Congo international, whilst Cresswell must deal with the electric pace of Walcott on the other side.
Both defenders must be disciplined, vigilant and quick in recovery to limit the space for the Everton wingers to run into and ensure that their movement is tracked at all times. The wide men are capable of breaking through the defensive line at any given time and exploit any lapse in concentration from the opposition.
West Ham remain without the injured Winston Reid, Michail Antonio, James Collins, Javier Hernandez and Sam Byram, all of whom have long been ruled out for the remainder of the season.
Marko Arnautovic and Joe Hart, however, are both expected to recover from knocks in time for Sunday’s game.
For Everton, the emerging news of Wayne Rooney’s potential switch to the MLS side DC United resulted in the forward leaving training early on Friday, meaning his return to Everton this season is likely to be cut short of the final game against West Ham.
Gylfi Sigurdsson remains out with a knee injury which has seen the Icelandic international miss the last two months.
Marteen Stekelenburg, James McCarthy, Eliaquim Mangala and Mason Holgate also remain injured with their own respective long-term problems.
Both sides arrive into Sunday’s game at the London Stadium in decent form, with David Moyes and Sam Allardyce restoring resilience and battling mentalities into their sides who had each struggled with the threat of relegation prior to both manager’s arrivals at their new clubs in November.
Both teams picked up a point from hard-fought draws in their previous outings, and it is likely to be a similar story between the two on the final day of the season.
Score prediction: West Ham 1-1 Everton