Liverpool (AFP) – Romelu Lukaku’s return to fitness has given Everton extra reason for optimism as they prepare to welcome their former manager David Moyes back to Goodison Park in the Premier League on Saturday.
Lukaku was outstanding in Everton’s last home match, scoring four times in a 6-3 victory over Bournemouth at the start of February, but missed his club’s recent five-day warm-weather training camp in Dubai to have treatment on a calf problem.
Moyes, now in charge at Sunderland, will be disappointed to learn that the Belgium striker has been passed fit, and is ready to add to the total of 17 goals that makes him Everton’s top scorer this season.
The break in Dubai was a result of Everton having no game for a fortnight after their most recent fixture, a goalless draw at Middlesbrough, and appears to have given Ronald Koeman’s players a chance to shake off their aches and strains.
In addition to Lukaku, midfielder James McCarthy is ready to return from a hamstring injury, and winger Kevin Mirallas has recovered from a groin problem.
Spirits are good too, with a poor run of results in the lead-up to Christmas now forgotten, thanks to a sequence of eight league matches unbeaten, during which Everton have gathered 18 points and kept five clean sheets.
As a result, Everton are firmly ensconced in seventh place, well behind the teams above them, but with a significant gap to most of the teams below them as well.
With no cups to play for, and European qualification a distant shot at present, the Toffees are more or less free to play without pressure. Koeman, though, will not stand for his players easing up.
“The best way to be successful is game by game,” the Everton manager said. “We like to win and we need to play on a good level. We are not a team who will give a lot of space away.”
– Unhappy return –
The last time Moyes came to Goodison Park as a visiting manager, he was sacked just two days later.
That was following a 2-0 defeat with Manchester United in April 2014, nine months after the Scot ended his 11-year spell as Everton’s manager for an ill-fated stint at Old Trafford.
This time, he returns with a Sunderland team bottom of the table and needing a lift after losing 4-0 at home to Southampton in their last league fixture a fortnight ago.