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Buoyant Everton hope to continue upward curve at Brighton

The Toffees’ festive road trip continues on the south coast

Everton FC v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

All is rosy in the Everton garden again after their Boxing Day bonanza at Turf Moor.

We mentioned in the Burnley preview that a response was vital following the Tottenham Hotspur mauling so to see them do so in such style was hugely encouraging.

Granted, Burnley are a poor side and helped us on our way but Everton still had to take their chances, something they have been guilty of not doing in away games this season.

To put the result in context, it was only the third time Everton have scored five goals away from home in the Premier League era and the first since 1996.

On a practical level it also wipes out the negative goal difference accrued following that Tottenham result. On a symbolic level it also draws a line under that game and hopefully their poor run of form post-Anfield.

Marco Silva was quick to dedicate the result to the fans, perhaps aware that the supporters felt severely let down at Goodison Park on Sunday but the warm reception the away fans gave to the players and manager before the Burnley game shows how they retain belief in the Portuguese’s tenure.

We all accept that this is a long-term project and there will be a few blips along the way, it’s how the manager and players respond to those blips that’s important.

Burnley FC v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

They certainly responded on Wednesday, let’s hope that feel-good factor can carry on into the new year.

The win in Lancashire was also notable for the Toffees becoming the first English side to score 7,000 top flight goals, another sign of the team’s endurance at the top level of the English game.

Saturday’s game at the AMEX will also see another milestone, with the club becoming the first English side to reach 4,500 games in the top division. That’s 334 more than Liverpool and Arsenal who have both played 4,115.

A special shout out also has to go to Lucas Digne after two more spectacular long-range goals. We all feared how the club could replace Leighton Baines but in Digne they have the perfect successor.

All five of Silva and Brands’ signings have proven to be hits and dramatically improved the side. It certainly makes me excited about what they can do in the next few transfer windows if they can maintain that level of success in the transfer market.

The opposition

Brighton supporters have every right to be loving life right now given what they have endured over the past 20 years.

At the end of the century the Seagulls were on the brink of falling out of the Football League altogether. And although that disaster was diverted, they soon found themselves playing home games at a soulless athletics track following the sale of the Goldstone Ground home.

Brighton & Hove Albion v Arsenal FC - Premier League Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images

The state-of-the-art AMEX Stadium, opened in 2011, symbolises their dramatic renaissance and Everton head south to face a side once again on course to retain their Premier League status.

Much of that is down to manager Chris Hughton who, for me, is one of the most underrated managers in the division.

Brighton were 21st in the Championship, one place above the relegation zone, when he took charge in December 2014.

Three years later they were promoted to the top flight for the first time for 34 years and finished 15th last season.

They head into this game comfortably in mid-table, with a 10 point gap between themselves and the relegation zone.

The bedrock of their success is their home form, where they have lost twice in their last 12 Premier League matches.

They again showed their resilience against Arsenal on Boxing Day, coming from behind to earn a 1-1 draw, ending a run of three straight defeats.

Their goalscoring threat is again likely to be centered around the evergreen Glenn Murray, who has eight goals to his name this season.

The reverse meeting at Goodison in number saw Everton produce one of their best performances so far under Silva.

Things are likely to be much tougher down on the south coast.

Everton FC v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Team news

Silva could recall Richarlison to the starting line-up after the Brazilian was rested against Burnley before coming on and scoring late on.

Ademola Lookman has missed the last two games with a minor injury and could return.

James McCarthy may also get a look in as he continues his rehabilitation from a broken leg.

Final word

The Toffees bring the curtain down on 2018 in a significantly better place than when they started it.

It hasn’t been a vintage year, but it may prove to be significant if the building blocks put in place by Silva and Brands lead to something substantial further down the line.

A win to wrap up the year would be fantastic, though my money is on a hard earned draw.

A happy New Year to you all and all the best for a successful Royal Blue 2019.