Everton travel to face West Bromwich Albion in the final fixture of Matchday 22 around the Premier League. It's a tricky road test for the Toffees, who are fighting to keep pace in the muddled race atop the league table.
West Brom must elevate their level of play in the coming weeks to avoid falling into a relegation battle during the season's stretch run. A lack of attacking firepower has held them back recently with just one goal scored over the past three matches.
One thing Everton are doing much better in the first year under Roberto Martinez is taking care of business in matches they should win easily. The last two fixtures are a perfect example as they beat QPR and Norwich by a combined score of 6-0.
Without further ado, let's check out all the important viewing information for the clash, followed by an examination of the top storyline and a match prediction.
What's your prediction for Monday's match?
Where: The Hawthorns in West Bromwich, England
When: Monday, Jan. 20 at 3 p.m. ET (8 p.m. GMT)
Watch: NBC Sports Network and Sky Sports 1
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
Match Forecast (via Bloomberg Sports)
Everton: 44.7 percent
West Brom: 29.4 percent
Draw: 25.9 percent
Top Storyline: Can Everton keep pace in the Champions League race?
Everton aren't in the Champions League race because they have been particularly dominant. Instead, they are keeping pace atop the table due to the fact they are the toughest side to beat in the league so far, dropping just two of the first 21 matches.
Kevin Mirallas needs to step up if the Toffees are going to maintain that good form. Ross Barkley, a crucial piece of the team's strong play, is going to miss several weeks with a toe injury, leaving the Belgian international to fill the void.
Martinez said it's still too early to know exactly when Barkley will return:
Martinez: "Ross is recovering well from his fracture but it is still too early to tell how long he will be out for." #EFCWBA— Everton (@Everton) January 17, 2014
They do have a little leeway because the back line and Tim Howard are playing very well. So Everton doesn't need as many offensive fireworks to win games. Still, Mirallas must develop the same chemistry with Romelu Lukaku that Barkley had for the attack to thrive.
On the opposite side, while the West Brom attacking group has been struggling, their defensive play remains solid. They have allowed just three goals over the last trio of matches, which equates to a good test for the Everton attack.
It's likely to become a hard-fought, slow-paced match with each side being forced to work extremely hard to create scoring chances. West Brom definitely doesn't want it to develop into a wide-open affair given their attacking struggles of late.
Ultimately, if the Toffees are going to end up in a Champions League position at season's end these type of matches—on the road against a middling opponent—are key. Getting all three points would be a big step in the right direction.
The match shouldn't lack intensity. Since there's so much parity throughout the Premier League, both sides have a lot to play for with Everton hoping to keep pace with the other top contenders and West Brom trying to remain clear of the relegation zone.
Mirallas is coming off a strong showing against Norwich. Expect him to lead the midfield charge for Everton once again. Paired with continued good form at the back, the Toffees should be able to escape with the narrow victory.
Everton 1, West Brom 0