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Silva ready for what could be the defining week of his Everton tenure so far

The Toffees are back after their unofficial winter break, but the pressure to get results remains just as intense

Everton FC v Cardiff City - Premier League Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Everton are back! More than two weeks have passed since their last dismal performance and, to be honest, it’s been glorious. Two whole weekends without the inevitable disappointment of watching the Toffees let you down.

The break allowed everyone to take a step back and calm down, with emotions running high after a dreadful few weeks in terms of results.

With the team out of form the last thing they needed was a run of fixtures in quick succession. But that is what they got and Silva seemed powerless to get any sort of reaction out of them.

Watford FC v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

It reminded me very much of Ronald Koeman’s final few weeks in charge, with the games - and defeats - coming thick and fast.

Tiredness and fatigue may have been a factor after a hectic Christmas period, though I still think that is a flimsy excuse given every other team has had a similarly busy run.

Either way that excuse is now redundant after such a long rest, effectively a self-enforced winter break.

Silva opted not to take the players away on a warm-weather training camp, choosing instead to give them a few days off before getting down to work at Finch Farm.

He would have been criticised either way in that regard. Had the players gone away then Silva would have been accused of rewarding them for failure with a holiday. Others will suggest that some time away to fully focus on football is just what they needed.

I think, from a PR perspective, Silva has made the right choice. Whether it is right from a footballing perspective we will find out on Tuesday.

Because since that defeat at Vicarage Road the rest of the division have played their game in hand over the Blues, which saw us slip to 11th and seven points off Watford in seventh.

We are now nearly as close to the bottom three as we are the top seven and although I’m confident the will be no relegation battle, some results are needed quickly if we aren’t to get sucked in and begin to look nervously looking down the table.

That makes Tuesday’s game with Cardiff so important, especially with Liverpool lying in wait at the weekend.

Two defeats, especially heavy defeats, will see the howls of displeasure come roaring back and leave Silva’s job in severe jeopardy.

The opposition

Cardiff’s battle against relegation was put into context last month when a plane carrying new record signing Emiliano Sala crashed in the English Channel while on route to south Wales.

Like Leicester earlier this season, Cardiff suddenly had to come to terms with with a human tragedy that put football firmly in the shade.

Boss Neil Warnock admitted he had struggled to come to terms with Sala’s death and the need to continue managing a group of players throughout it all.

Cardiff City v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

It is to his credit that the team have remained professional and put emotions to one side - or at the very least channeled it in a positive way on the football pitch.

The Bluebirds, enjoying just their second season in the Premier League, won back-to-back matches against Bournemouth and Southampton to climb out of the relegation zone.

They suffered a setback on Friday with a 5-1 thrashing at home to Watford, though they remain a point outside the bottom three.

Cardiff City v Everton - Premier League Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

The Toffees drew 0-0 on their last visit to the Cardiff City Stadium in August 2013. Prior to that their last visit to Cardiff was for a League Cup second round, second leg tie in 1979. Cardiff won that game 1-0, though the Toffees went through after a 2-0 win in the first leg at Goodison Park.

Team news

Silva has confirmed Phil Jagielka is fully fit and could make his first appearance since the opening day with Kurt Zouma suspended and Yerry Mina doubtful with a calf problem.

Leighton Baines is also fit after a rib injury, though he is unlikely to feature ahead of Lucas Digne.

Final word

Make no mistake, this is the start of a huge week for Marco Silva and Everton. A victory on Tuesday would give them much-needed momentum ahead of Sunday’s Merseyside derby, the only game left in the season that the fans truly care about.

Everton’s weakness at set pieces combined with Cardiff’s direct approach makes me uneasy though. I just hope Marco has been working on defending corners and free kicks during their extended break.

If he has, then Everton have more than enough going forward to secure the result. If not, then it could be yet another torrid evening for everyone concerned.