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Everton-West Ham United Preview
Relief and disappointment will both be on show when West Ham United and Everton meet at London's former Olympic Stadium in Stratford on Sunday.
The Premier League pair flirted with the disastrous prospect of relegation from the top-flight this season, before the arrival of new coaches at each club saw both stabilise to finish mid-table.
While retaining their Premier League status will be a huge relief to both clubs, neither would have expected to have endured such stagnant and unsuccessful campaigns. However, both managers were keen to look at the positives in their media conferences on Friday.
"No matter what happens, we cannot finish any lower than ninth and I said from the start (of my tenure) that if we could finish in the top half that would be a major achievement," Everton boss Sam Allardyce said. "Our goal is to finish eighth and reach 52 points. Fifty-two points from where we started would be an unbelievable return from the players."
An uncharacteristically strong run of results has put a new shine on Everton's season, with the Toffees (13-10-14) firmly establishing themselves in the top half thanks to wins over Brighton, Stoke, Newcastle and Huddersfield in recent months.
And Allardyce has called on his players to add another win to that tally.
"This is our best spell," the Everton boss said. "Let's hope the players can win again on Sunday and finish the season on a high."
West Ham's recent run has not been so impressive, with David Moyes' side (9-12-16) managing just two victories in their last 10 Premier League matches. However, the Hammers also could have suffered a far worse fate than a mid-table finish this season, and Moyes has been keen to point that out.
"The biggest thing for me and the real job was to ensure we remained a Premier League club, and we've got that job done," Moyes said. "We're not celebrating staying up, but at times you do have to look at it as a good achievement from the position we were in.
"Also, when you look at the clubs who have gone down this year, as I don't think many people would have predicted the clubs who have gone down."
West Ham will be without the services of Sam Byram and Michail Antonio for Sunday's game, while Javier Hernandez and James Collins are reportedly doubts with knee and hamstring injuries respectively.
Everton are missing Eliaquim Mangala and Dominic Calvert-Lewin for the match due to injury, while Allardyce gave an update on a number of his other key players.
"There is a chance for Theo (Walcott)," Allardyce said on Friday. "Mason (Holgate) is back training as well. But I am not sure, with what we have available at centre half, we need to risk him, because he is short of match practice. But he is training with us, so we will decide that later on today. Gylfi (Sigurdsson) is still a way off, unfortunately."
Everton won 4-0 when these teams met back in November and have lost just one of their last 22 meetings with the Hammers in all competitions.
Updated May 11, 2018