After coming dangerously close to their first relegation in over 70 years last season, Everton are on the brink again as they’re tied in 18th place. Meanwhile, Nottingham Forest are all the way up in 13th place, but the promotion side is only 4 points above the Toffees. Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks for this crucial relegation-survival clash.
Nottingham Forest vs. Everton Odds
Vegas sees this matchup as very even; Nottingham Forest are just +170 at home, while Everton are +190 and the draw is +205. For a goalscoring line of 2.5, the over is +150 while the under is -185.
Nottingham Forest vs. Everton Prediction & Pick
When these two teams met in August, it was a thriller; Nottingham Forest scored an opener to take a huge road lead shortly after the 80th minute, while Everton snatched back a point in the 88th minute through a Demarai Gray strike. The sides were extremely evenly matched, so several months later and this time on Nottingham’s home turf, it’ll be interesting to see if that rings true once more.
Forest went over a month without picking up a point after that match and two months without a league win, but they’ve had some good recent form, picking up three wins and two draws in their first five matches of 2023, and just a couple weeks ago, they drew Man City. Truly, the City Ground has been a fortress this season; the Garibaldi haven’t lost a home league match since September 16, a huge boost for a side that basically does not win on the road. By contrast, Everton have just one road win, 2-1 over last-place Southampton. They’ve shown some semblance of life in the early days of Sean Dyche’s young tenure, like a huge win over Arsenal, but this is still a side that has lost 9 of its past 12 Premier League matches.
I do think that given the two teams’ recent form, particularly when it comes to home and road splits, Nottingham +170 is a no-brainer; they’ve risen to the occasion in some of the biggest moments this season, and these are three enormous points in the battle for Premier League survival. The goalscoring total is a bit tougher, since Forest rarely score twice in a match and Sean Dyche’s Everton rarely score at all, but the under is in some serious minus-odds. My official pick is u2.5 goals at -185, and I’d even consider u1.5 in plus-odds, this game could easily be a 1-0 home win or even a scoreless draw.
The Midfield Battle
In a battle between two teams that don’t always take their chances in the attacking end, controlling possession of the ball could be a huge factor in potentially deciding a winner. Forest have been the second-worst possession side in the league, averaging just 40%. Everton, with a number around 44%, have only been slightly better, so it’ll be interesting to see who’s able to come out on top in this key clash between two lackluster units.
For the past two matches, Steve Cooper has employed the same three-man midfield, with much-maligned January newcomer Jonjo Shelvey in the middle. He’s been flanked by the similarly mediocre Jack Colback, and Remo Freuler, who is not playing up to his Atalanta standard, but has surely been the team’s best midfielder. Key contributor Ryan Yates has missed several matches in a row after a run of illness and injury, so it’s ambiguous as to when he’ll be back but it’ll be a real boost whenever that does happen
In terms of FotMob ratings, Everton’s three best players- their only ones over a 7 for the season- have been midfielders in some capacity. Alex Iwobi often plays in a more attacking role, but he’s been arguably the team’s best player as he’s poured in six league assists. Amadou Onana and Idrissa Gana Gueye don’t light up the scoresheet the same way, but both have provided an important presence in the middle of the pitch for the Toffees. Dwight McNeil and Abdoulaye Doucouré round out what has been an unimpressive bunch, but still perhaps this sad team’s best unit.
Nottingham Forest Attack vs. Everton Defense
As Forest have struggled to hold possession this season, they’ve favored scoring on the break- one such goal even stole them a draw against Manchester City. That being said, this strategy has been less than perfect; they’re tied as the second-lowest scoring side in the league, just a goal ahead of none other than Everton themselves in dead last. Everton are also 7th from the bottom when it comes to scoring defense, so this is a duel between a very much stoppable force, and a profoundly movable object; a strong performance from either could be an enormous needle-mover.
If it’s going to be Forest’s attack breaking the norm, they’re going to have to do it without their top Premier League scorer in terms of goals per minute, Taiwo Awoniyi, who has been spotty but an important contributor this season but is currently out. Welsh forward Brennan Johnson has been the main man in attack, and he’s finding some form; he’s scored 3 of his 5 league goals this far in recent weeks. Morgan Gibbs-White, another player who is a ton of fun to watch but inconsistent, has been a focal point for the attack, with his 2 goals and 5 assists matching Johnson for goal contributions.
Everton’s defense is anchored, as per usual, by England’s top goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford, who is coming off of an uncharacteristic stinker against Arsenal. Newcomers Connor Coady and James Tarkowski have been immediate and constant contributors in central defense, although the latter has had some serious issues adjusting to his new surroundings. Team captain Seamus Coleman and Ukranian youngster Vitaliy Mykolenko slot in at the fullbacks in what has been a fairly regularly-played, albeit rarely particularly effective back four that could really struggle to keep up with Forest in some of the quicker-paced moments of the game.