Everton - West Ham United Preview: Can the Hammers continue their assault on the top of the table?

Hammers travel to Merseyside hoping to break the Lukaku curse over them to help cement their chances of a top six finish this season.

Everton - West Ham United Preview: Can the Hammers continue their assault on the top of the table?
Image credit: VAVEL

A trip to Goodison Park gives West Ham United a chance to rise into the top four of the Premier League if they can beat Everton and if other games go their way. Considering they have gone under the radar for the most part of the season, to be within touching distance of the top four is an extraordinary feat for the club.

Everton meanwhile will come into the game knowing that a win could see them go level on points with their Merseyside rivals Liverpool in eighth place.

Relief up top

Whilst Slaven Bilic will have some tinkering on his hands due to injuries in defence, he greeted both Diafra Sakho back to the fray in the 1-0 win against Tottenham on Wednesday.

Michail Antonio wheeled away after scoring the winning goal against Spurs | GETTY

With both Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini fit and getting their relationship back on track since the latter's return to the XI in the last few weeks, it will be interesting to see who gets the nod up front.

Nigerian Emanuel Emenike has proven to be a hard working forward but has struggled in the Premier League to score goals in his four appearances. Sakho is renowned amongst the West Ham fans as a clinical finisher, but he has been out for just over three months. Andy Carroll meanwhile often dictates the way the side play with him as the lone striker, but against a physical Everton side Bilic may favour that approach.

The Lukaku curse

West Ham will have to be wary of an old foe in the shape of the Belgian chasing the golden boot. Romelu Lukaku, who is currently only two goals behind top goal-scorer Jamie Vardy has an unbelivable scoring record against the Hammers, having netted in his last seven consecutive games against West Ham.

With the Hammers likely to be shifting things around at the back due to having three entre-backs out injured, it presents Lukaku with the perfect opportunity to continue that run. Talking to Everton's official site the striker claimed he isn't thinking about continuing that run and is just going to try to "make the most of the chances I get." 

What the manager have said

Bilic remained as coy as ever regarding the clubs position in the League, saying to the official site that, "We are looking above us, but equally there are teams queuing up just a few points behind us too"

On the danger man Lukaku, he believes him to be "one of the best strikers in the world". It's clear that Bilic rates Everton, saying in his press conference that after beating Blackburn 1-5 in the FA Cup two weeks ago, the two teams he "wanted to avoid" were Everton and Chelsea. 

Roberto Martinez was full of praise for his opposing manager stating he has done a "remarkable" job in his first season so far in the Premier League.

Touching on West Ham's position, he simply said "it speaks for itself" as well as praising the balance amongst the squad Bilic has assembled.

Team news

West Ham will be without James Collins, Winston Reid, James Tomkins, Enner Valencia, Victor Moses, Joey O'Brien and the suspended Sam Byram.

It means that Bilic could well choose to employ the same 3-5-2 system that worked so well against Tottenham midweek, which would also see 17 year old Reece Oxford come into the heart of that defence.

Everton duo Tom Cleverley and Bryan Oviedo will be monitored prior to the game but are expected to miss out. Muhamed Besic has recently returned to training so could make the squad, as could fellow midfield Darron Gibson.