This week we spoke to SBNation's Everton blog Royal Blue Mersey to get the lowdown on Southampton's opponents on Saturday afternoon..
Please read, like, share and, most importantly, enjoy this week's edition of INSIDE INFO - the original (we're looking at you, www.saintsfc.co.uk) Saints column which gets the opposition's views ahead of their match against our beloved Southampton.
St. Mary's Musings: What were your expectations before the season started and how do they compare to this stage of the season?
Royal Blue Mersey: We were all hoping that last season's 11th place finish was just a blip and the side could return to the kind of form that saw them finish fifth in Roberto Martinez's first season in charge. And with no European games to clog up the fixture list there were genuine hopes of competing for a Champions League spot. To say the season has been a crushing disappointment is an understatement. The team has been capable of some sparkling football at times but is consistently let down by shoddy defending, particularly at Goodison Park. Next week's FA Cup semi-final is the only thing keeping the season alive, with another bid-table finish beckoning.
SMM: What do you think of Roberto Martinez?
RBM: He talks a really good game and comes across as a decent, honourable man. I admire his vision of building the club from the bottom up with an attractive style of football. But his stubborn refusal to acknowledge and work on basic defending is infuriating. The team has some wonderful attacking players but I wince every time the ball is played into our penalty area. His constant positivity even when the team has played poorly is also starting to grate. I'm rarely one for calling for a manager's head but anything other than an FA Cup win and I feel his time may be up at the end of the season.
SMM: What has went wrong and what has went right for Everton this season?
RBM: As mentioned we have some fantastic young attacking players, most notably Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley and Gerard Deulofeu. It is a joy to watch the team at times and they look capable of scoring against even the meanest of defences. Unfortunately though it only tends to be in patches, with their porous defence undermining any gains made at the other end of the field. They have dropped points in stoppage time on four occasions, including a 97th minute equaliser for Bournemouth in November and a 95th minute equaliser at Chelsea in January. Our home record is dreadful, with just four wins all season, resulting in a nervy, edgy atmosphere at Goodison that threatens to turn toxic the moment we concede a goal. It's hard not to agree with people who say Martinez is slowly turning us into Wigan.
SMM: How do you see Southampton in comparison to Everton?
RBM: I see Saints as a solid Premier League side that has returned to being a well-run club after a few chaotic years post-relegation in 2005. I think the club has realistic expectations and accepts that it has to sell key players regularly when ‘bigger' clubs come calling. Thankfully your thriving youth system has a conveyor belt of young talent ready to step into the first team. Everton certainly have won more trophies over the years and probably have a bigger fanbase, but could probably learn a few things on how to run things off the field.
SMM: Who should Saints fans be watching out for in the Everton squad on Saturday?
RBM: A combination of injuries, suspension and next week's FA Cup semi-final means Saturday's team will be shorn of several key players, including Lukaku and Barkley. Therefore we may see some of the academy players given an opportunity. Of those Kieran Dowell looks like an exciting prospect who may be the next player to break through into the senior team. Meanwhile Oumar Niasse, who cost £13.5m in January but has played less than 30 minutes in a blue shirt, may even be given an opportunity.
SMM: If you could sell anyone from the Everton starting XI, who would it be and why?
RBM: Arouna Kone. An honest enough player but one that is just simply not good enough to compete at this level anymore.
SMM: If you could sign any Saints player, who would it be and why?
RBM: Sadio Mane - anyone who scores to help beat Liverpool is ok in my book.
SMM: Finally, what is your prediction for Saturday?
RBM: Given our home record is so poor and the number of injuries/suspensions affecting the squad I can't see Everton winning this one. But we desperately need some sort of momentum going into next week's semi-final at Wembley. Therefore I'm going to sit on the fence and go for a hard-earned 1-1 draw.