Mike Phelan's Hull City have shown an improvement in performances after reverting to a 3-5-2 formation in recent weeks. Yet better displays will count for nothing if they are unable to turn their showings into points, as the Tigers remain rooted to the bottom of the table and continue to drift further away from their rivals.
Danger in wide areas
Hull face an Everton side on Friday evening who are beginning to find their feet under Ronald Koeman after a lacklustre start to the season. The Toffees have mounted 84% of their attacks down the flanks this season and will undoubtedly look to exploit this area against the Tigers.
In Kevin Mirallas and Gerard Deulofeu they possess a deadly combination that will test any Premier League full-back. Unfortunately for Hull, defending down the channels has been their greatest weakness this season. All three of the goals they conceded against Manchester City came from such positions on Boxing Day.
It means that wing-backs Andrew Robertson and Ahmed Elmohamady will have to be on top form to give their side any kind of hope. With both players enjoying the opportunity to motor forward and support their midfield, they will be required to show awareness of any developments behind them when Everton take control of the ball on the turnover.
With top goalscorer Romelo Lukaku also enjoying the opportunity to drift into wide areas, the Hull wing-backs will have to try and hold the powerful striker up and not get into a battle of strength with the Belgian. Similarly, if Mirallas and Deulofeu are afforded space to cross, Lukaku's aerial ability will cause a Hull defence that have struggled with aerial battles all sorts of problems.
Snodgrass and Barkley will be vital
Yet the danger of Mirallas and Deulofeu on the attack could be turned into a positive when Hull win the ball back. Neither player enjoys working back to support their full-backs, allowing Robertson and Elmohamady, supported by the roaming Robert Snodgrass, to test the legs of Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines.
Further opportunities for the hosts could arise from set-pieces. Hull have scored six of their 14 goals from such situations, whilst Everton have conceded just as many and are always liable to give away free-kicks on the edge of the box. Yet Hull themselves have conceded nine goals from dead ball positions, Everton taking advantage on six occasions.
Snodgrass will be the set-piece specialist for Hull, whilst Ross Barkley will be involved in a high percentage for the visitors. The young English starlet will be involved in a key battle in the middle of the park with Sam Clucas. Hull's Academy graduate enjoyed a shining start to the season but has since struggled to maintain his consistency. If Clucas can keep Barkley quiet then Hull may be able to hold out Everton, though a lot will depend on what Barkley turns up on Friday evening.