TC predicting close game

Tony Cottee is expecting an enthralling tussle when two of his old clubs lock horns at Goodison Park on Saturday.

The West Ham United great spent six years with Everton, scoring 99 goals in 241 games for the Toffees between August 1988 and September 1994. Either side of his spell on Merseyside, the diminutive striker plundered 147 goals in 337 matches in claret and blue.

As such, it is no surprise that Cottee's loyalties will be decidedly split this weekend. The former England hitman will be working at Goodison himself on Saturday and is forecasting a testing afternoon for Gianfranco Zola's side.

However, with Everton already assured of a place in next season's UEFA Europa League after reaching the FA Cup final and West Ham being boosted by the probable return of England striker Carlton Cole, Cottee believes the Hammers can upset David Moyes' men.

"I'm actually delighted because I've been asked to cover the game for Sky at Goodison," said Cottee. "Normally, I'm not allowed to do West Ham or Everton games but when both teams are involved I can do them.

"It'll be a tough game, as it always is up there. Goodison Park has traditionally been a bit of a graveyard for us. I remember Timmy Breacker scored the winner for West Ham there when I was at Everton on New Year's Day 1994, but we haven't won there too often since then. Historically, it has not been a very good hunting ground for West Ham."

Since Breacker's match-winner, West Ham have tasted victory on just one of their eleven subsequent visits to Goodison Park. A Bobby Zamora goal and David Weir own-goal earned the Hammers a 2-1 success in December 2005.

This time around, Everton have the twin distractions of Wembley and a long-standing injury crisis to ignore if they are to maintain their fine home run against the Hammers. Moyes will be without England defender Phil Jagielka, Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta and strikers Yakubu and Victor Anichebe, but Cottee insisted that Zola and his players would have to be on their guard.

"I was up at Goodison last Saturday when they played Spurs and it was a very boring nil-nil draw," said Cottee. "I think it would be fair to say that a few of the Everton boys looked as if their minds might be drifting towards the cup final, but then they still gave Spurs a game and they didn't lose. They didn't play particularly well, but it showed the resilience they have got in their side.

"They also have a lot of good players - the likes of Tim Cahill, Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar. Louis Saha is also back, so despite the injury problems that they've had, they have still got some good players and will give us a hard game. For West Ham to get the three points, they'll have to work really hard and be on form."

While Everton will be forced to deal with a striker shortage, West Ham expect to welcome back top scorer Cole, who has recovered from the groin injury he suffered during England's 4-0 friendly win over Slovakia at Wembley on 28 March. Cottee believes the 25-year-old's return will provide a huge boost to the Hammers' chances of securing a win vital to the club's chances of climbing back into the Barclays Premier League's top-seven.

"It's been a bit threadbare up front the last few games," said Cottee. "The lads that have played have done their best and tried hard but when you have such a big presence in the shape of Carlton it makes a difference. He's been such a good target man this season and his game has improved immensely. I think everyone will welcome him back because it gives the team a focal point and an outlet."