Can Everton and West Brom maintain a challenge for a Champions League place?

Everton

West Brom are level on points with Everton who are ahead on goal difference in fourth place, but how seriously should each be taken?

West Brom have made a terrific start under Steve Clarke and would go a point behind Chelsea if they beat the European champions at the Hawthorns later today.

They will go into the game full of confidence having won five out of their six home games only losing to Man City and securing their first away win of the season at Wigan last week.

Steve Clarke's side have been playing with a real attacking flair and have plenty of options in the forward areas.

The pace they have through Long, Odemwingie and Lukaku is enough to frighten any defence.

Clarke has managed to strike a good balance in midfield too with Mulumbu and Yacob providing a solid platform for James Morrison to be more creative further up the pitch.

Many had tipped the Baggies to struggle this year but does their early season form make Europe a possibility?

It is possible, there are often examples of teams who take us by surprise and continue their momentum right through the season, Newcastle last season for instance.

For that to be possible Steve Clarke will have to have his big players available to him for the large majority of the season.

January could be a crucial month with West Brom unlikely to have much money to spend, teams below them at the moment will strengthen and the Baggies will be doing remarkably well to remain ahead of teams like Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham.

However giving a bit of perspective, a top half finish would be a more than satisfactory return in Clarke’s first season as manager.

January could also be a crucial month for Everton. Keeping hold of their top players will be essential if they are going to make a charge for fourth, particularly Marouane Fellaini.

The Belgian has been linked with a £30m move to Chelsea in January on the back of his excellent start to the season.

One thing that may help to fend off interest in Everton’s talent in January is they have shown that they will hold off for maximum value when selling a player, with prices inflated in January Everton fans will hope the board fend off clubs like Chelsea.

David Moyes’ has bought shrewdly in the last two windows bringing in Jelavic, Mirallas and Naismith has improved his squad massively for a modest sum.

While allowing Tim Cahill to leave Goodison in the summer may have raised a few eyebrows, moving Fellaini into his position just behind the striker has brought out his best form.

Everton have suffered just one loss in 11 matches and are showing an ability to grind out results having been behind in their last six games they have bounced back to win or draw in each.

The Merseyside club’s start is a massive improvement from previous seasons where they have started slowly and if they finish the season the way they normally do they will be in with a great chance of snatching fourth.

What do you think, can either crack the top four?

image: © isirya

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