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Everton-West Brom Preview
(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Two evenly matched sides will meet at The Hawthorns for the first Premier League game of 2012 when West Bromwich Albion host Everton on New Year's Day.
Just a point separates the two clubs in the league, and West Brom manager Roy Hodgson is excited by the prospect.
"This is the current number nine team playing the current number ten, all-be-it that could change very quickly because the league is very compact," said Hodgson. "It's two teams, I would guess, that are pretty satisfied with what has gone on and two teams looking to push onwards and upwards to get even closer to that infamous top six that everyone talks about - the teams that dominate the league.
"Everton are a very, very well organised team and a big club. David Moyes has managed his resources in the best possible way and every year, whether they start off badly or not, they always seem to end up nosing a place in the Champions League or Europa League.
"They will be tough to beat. Everton are always tough to beat. I've always had tough games with Everton whether I've been at Fulham, Liverpool or West Brom. Every game has been a close-run call."
It has been a good year for Hodgson at West Brom, who has rebuilt his reputation following a disappointing spell at Liverpool in 2010.
"I think the highlight since I came here is the general way things have gone since coming here in February," said Hodgson. "It was a relatively bold decision after leaving Liverpool to jump straight back into management - especially at a club that was in danger of relegation. That bold decision paid off and I've enjoyed it and the team has had success.
"I think we did well at the end of last season to get ourselves where we were. This season we've had our moments and it's good to end the year in a situation where we look at the statistic that count - where are we in the league and how many points we have."
Everton are not yet able to call upon Landon Donovan but will be boosted by the news that United States international forward has agreed a two-month loan deal from LA Galaxy.
"I am really excited to get back here and play," said Donovan. "Since being here the first time, I've played in a World Cup and had another couple of years' experience so I feel more prepared this time.
"I know exactly what I am getting into and exactly what is expected of me and hopefully I can fit in. Sometimes I think life is about expectations. Last time there was zero expectations so I can only make up from that. I understand there is some level of pressure and expectation but all footballers deal with that. I don't worry about that, I want to enjoy my two months here and the way I play I think I can help the team."
West Brom remain without Zoltan Gera (knee) and Steven Reid (knee), while James Morrison (hamstring) and Youssouf Mulumbu (groin) are doubts. The Toffees are without Marouane Fellaini (abductor), but Jack Rodwell may return from a hamstring problem.
Three red cards were shown in the matches between these teams last season. West Brom have conceded penalties in four of their last five Premier League matches, but kept their first clean sheet in ten matches last time out.
Updated December 30, 2011