Everton manager Marco Silva says he and his players are wary of the qualities possessed by Saturday’s opponents, Cardiff City.
Bluebirds boss Neil Warnock defied the odds by leading an unfancied squad to promotion last season, but had to wait until mid-October for their first league victory.
They have recently enjoyed an upturn in form, winning two and drawing one of the last four Premier League games, with only goal difference keeping them in the relegation zone.
Despite Everton being overwhelming favourites to win the Goodison clash this weekend, he believes Cardiff have the ability to hurt his side if the Toffees cannot reach their maximum.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference on Friday, he said:
“If you want to look at just the results, of course they are in a better position than before. They don’t change anything in their style of play and their approach to the game. They’ve achieved good results and for sure have more confidence.
“They keep working hard; even in some games they lost, they were a tough match for their opponents as well, and for sure, tomorrow will be a tough match for us.
Silva may take heart from the fact that Cardiff are yet to win on the road this season, and admitted his appreciation of the unwavering home support from the Goodison faithful.
He believes the fans are seeing the work he and his staff are putting in tirelessly to help Everton find their way again, but that his squad still have great room for improvement despite taking 13 points from the last 18:
“It’s a normal situation because I don’t want our team at the same level as we were at the beginning of the season. I understand with good results that things come faster, of course. We’re happy with our momentum; we want to keep it, but we have many things to improve.
“The environment is different because we did good things. Our fans feel what we’re doing; they’re supporting our team since the first minute until the end. They understand what we’re doing, how our players are working on the pitch and how we are performing well. It’s the most important thing.
“The results are really important, not just to grow confidence as a team but in our fans as well. I think it’s clear to everyone that even the atmosphere in our stadium is different now, but it is different because we are working together.”
Away from Saturday’s game, Silva also spoke glowingly about Everton kit manager, Jimmy Martin, who celebrated his 70th birthday on Friday.
Martin, who began his association with the club in the 1980s as the team bus driver, was presented with a special Everton shirt by Silva to mark the occasion.
Lovely touch for Jimmy Martin's birthday pic.twitter.com/XsmzH3EsuC— Adam Jones (@Adam_Jones94) November 23, 2018
With the manager having only joined the Blues six months ago, he also explained how important Martin was in helping him understand the culture of the club:
“It’s a pleasure for us to see his smile every day. He loves the club and we love him as well. He’s a fantastic person and every day we see him is a good day for us for sure.
“When you arrive at a club, you have to understand the club, you have to work with your players, and the history is easy to understand, but [you must understand] the culture of the club as well.
“People like Jimmy are really important to understand these types of situations faster.”