Everton V Hull at Goodison Park : Match Preview

18 March 2017 01:34
Everton V Hull - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Ronald Koeman applauds improved home form as Everton look to dispatch Hull

Everton manager Ronald Koeman is delighted his players have learned to love Goodison Park again as the old ground has regained its fortress reputation.

Last season they lost eight times at home, winning just six matches and claiming 23 points, with an increasingly toxic atmosphere in the final few weeks of Roberto Martinez's reign impacting performances on the pitch.

However, since Koeman took over in the summer he has enjoyed an extended honeymoon period as home fans have been rewarded with some impressive performances.

At home the Dutchman's more pragmatic, direct approach has already garnered 31 points from a possible 42 and they have lost just once there in the league in the last 12 months - against Liverpool in December.

In front of their own fans Everton have scored 30 league goals in 14 matches and conceded just 10, bettered only by runaway Premier League leaders Chelsea, second-placed Tottenham and on a par with Manchester United.

It seems rather fitting then that the club have a community-based initiative this season called 'Home Is Where The Heart Is', with their under-23 side trying to raise B#230,000 to fund and develop a supported living initiative for young people in Liverpool.

"If you are afraid to play at home that is the worst thing you can have as a football player," said Koeman, whose side face Hull on Saturday.

"But at home we are producing really good performances and clean sheets and I think it is important.

"The results, they have brought confidence to the team and the fans have confidence in the team.

"It is difficult to always keep that momentum at home but we'd like to do it."

Koeman will start striker Romelu Lukaku, the Premier League's joint top scorer with 19 goals, despite the Belgium international's outspoken comments about the club and revelation he will not sign the new contract on offer which would make him the highest-paid player in the club's history.

The manager was upset by the 23-year-old's words but insists he has not noticed a difference in his attitude in training.

"If any player is not interested in Everton then he will not start. If he shows his commitment to the team, the club and the fans (then) even not signing a new contract is no problem for myself," Koeman said.

Defender Leighton Baines is likely to be fit after recovering from a back injury which he suffered last weekend.

Midfielder James McCarthy is missing with a hamstring problem, while Muhamed Besic is still working his way back to fitness after a long-term knee injury.

Tom Huddlestone, meanwhile, believes Hull head coach Marco Silva's tactical acumen is the key factor behind the midfielder's eye-catching form.

Huddlestone has thrived under Silva, appointed in January and tasked with halting the club's slide back towards the Sky Bet Championship.

The Tigers aim to maintain their momentum on Saturday after last week's home win against relegation rivals Swansea lifted them to within a point of safety.

"It's been good," Huddlestone said ahead of the trip to Goodison Park, where Hull have not won in 65 years.

"It's been enjoyable and he's opened a few of our eyes to different tactics and ways of playing and ideas on the pitch, so it's been very enjoyable so far.

"He's given me a bit more responsibility in possession and out of possession and equally we know as a midfield two or three, if one player goes into a position he knows exactly where the other two should be.

"It just makes your job easier knowing if you go into a certain position, then you're reassured that the cover is behind you."

Hull will chase that elusive away win at Everton without last week's two-goal match-winner Oumar Niasse, ineligible to face his parent club.

Midfielder Evandro is still out after failing to shake off a calf injury which has sidelined him for the last three matches.

Source: PAR