EPL Preview: Koeman calls for focus; Leicester battles troubles

Everton, which beat champion Leicester City 2-0 on Monday to climb to seventh in the table, takes on a Hull side that has gone seven league games without a win, but Koeman said his team would be taking nothing for granted in an unpredictable competition.

Leicester fans wearing Jamie Vardy masks as a protest against his suspension.   -  Reuters

Everton manager Ronald Koeman has warned his players against complacency ahead of its visit to basement side Hull City in the Premier League on Friday.

Everton, which beat champion Leicester City 2-0 on Monday to climb to seventh in the table, takes on a Hull side that has gone seven league games without a win, but Koeman said his team would be taking nothing for granted in an unpredictable competition.

“That's the most dangerous (thing) you can do in football,” the manager told a news conference on Wednesday. “The Premier League is unpredictable. Maybe expect a win and it will be totally different. I don't look at the position in the table.”

Hull held out for 70 minutes against third-placed Manchester City before being beaten 3-0 at home on Dec. 26 and Koeman said the resilience the team had shown in that match proved that Everton would have to be at its best to get a result.

“I watched Hull play City and after 70 minutes it was 0-0,” he added. “They lost away at West Ham 1-0 but Hull was the better team. That means don't focus on position in the table. It's a tough one, it's a difficult one, and we need to be at our best.”

Goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg will miss the game as he continues his recovery from the leg injury he suffered in the Merseyside derby defeat by Liverpool on Dec. 19, with midfielder James McCarthy also ruled out.

Everton has not won consecutive league games since September and Koeman said his team were still a work in progress, but he would not be drawn on his targets in the January transfer window.

“Of course we are working,” the Dutchman added. “We have certain interest in some players. But that's what we need to keep inside.”

The manager did, however, confirm Everton's interest in highly rated Charlton Athletic winger Ademola Lookman, but would not offer any details on when the deal might be completed.

He also expressed sympathy for former Swansea City manager Bob Bradley who was sacked on Tuesday, less than three months after taking charge of the struggling Welsh club.

“I have sympathy for every manager who gets sacked,” Koeman said. “We know finally the manager will pay the bill if the team is not performing -- but most of the time it's too fast.”

Leicester in trouble

Champions Leicester City is deep in trouble after just one win in nine games and will again be without the suspended Jamie Vardy against fast improving West Ham United. Claudio Ranieri must decide whether to recall Riyad Mahrez after dropping the Algerian against Everton.

Mahrez is one of four Leicester players about to depart for the African Nations Cup so the Italian is expected to spend heavily in the transfer window. Swansea City is also looking to strengthen its under-performing squad once it appoints a manger to succeed Bob Bradley who was sacked this week.

The Swans are 19th and desperately need a win at home to Bournemouth. The only side below the team, Hull City, entertains Everton on Friday while 15th-placed Middlesbrough, away to Manchester United on Saturday, is among the sides looking anxiously below them.

Sam Allardyce's Crystal Palace face a difficult game at Arsenal on Sunday when Tottenham Hotspur makes the short trip to Watford.

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