Weblog: The football punter

Everton can continue fine late-season form 

Sky Sports Premier League/Main Event, 8pm Friday

Everton need a lot to go their way if they are going to qualify for the Europa League but they can apply some pressure on seventh-placed Wolves by defeating Burnley at Goodison Park.

Falling short of European qualification would be a disappointment for Everton, who invested heavily last summer with the aim of giving the big six a run for their money.

However, the pressure on Marco Silva has lifted after a strong finish to the campaign.

Everton's embarrassing sequence of 25 league matches without a victory against big six teams came to an end in March with a 2-0 success over Chelsea.

That landmark success was swiftly followed by impressive victories over Arsenal (1-0) and Manchester United (4-0) although Everton's late surge was stymied last Saturday by a frustrating 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace.

Everton were the better side at Selhurst Park, winning the shot count 22 to eight, and they should be on the front foot against the Clarets, who will be happy to concede territory and possession.

Sean Dyche's direct style is not everyone's cup of tea but his team are always competitive and they often do their best work in the penalty boxes.

In their last away game they drew 2-2 at Chelsea despite losing the shot count 22-6 and having only 24 per cent possession.

However, for long periods this season it had appeared that Dyche's tactics had lost their effectiveness.

Burnley collected 12 points from their opening 19 games and looked in desperate trouble after losing 5-1 at home to Everton on Boxing Day.

But they kick-started their campaign with three successive league wins and their top-flight survival was confirmed before last Sunday's 1-0 loss at home to Manchester City.

Staying up did not have a negative impact on Burnley's workrate but there was an obvious lack of quality as they struggled to lay a glove on the Citizens.

Burnley have got to a comfortable position by focusing on the matches against the teams around them.

Nine of their 11 wins have come against bottom-half teams and three of their four away victories have been against sides in the bottom four.

There has been the odd exception, notably the 2-1 victory over Tottenham in February, but Burnley have generally found it tough to compete with the major teams with big budgets and the trend may continue this weekend.

Everton must show patience against a side who will stay focused and compact but their extra quality should make the difference and it entitles them to be warm odds-on favourites.

The floodgates are unlikely to open but the Toffees should be victorious in a low-scoring encounter.

Everton win & under 3.5 goals

The Football Site

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