A regular run-of-the-mill Premier League away game will have a significant edge to it this weekend as Everton head down south to take on Watford.
The Hornets fans haven’t forgiven Marco Silva for what they feel was turning his back on the club as soon as Everton expressed an interest in his services in October 2017.
Publicly he said little, but privately he was apparently keen on a move to Goodison, despite only joining Watford four months previously.
Whether that was the only reason for their form dropping off a cliff I don’t know, but Watford and the club’s fans certainly feel that was the main reason why he had to be sacked in January.
The fact the clubs remain in dispute means any sort of healing process has yet to begin, so Silva will likely endure a rough afternoon in Hertfordshire.
The Hornets supporters are also desperate to finish above Everton too so they can prove a point and claim some sort of moral victory. They are currently one point and one place above the Toffees, which makes Saturday’s game rather pivotal.
They are also particularly pleased with themselves at present because Silva’s replacement, the rather likeable Javi Gracia, has managed to stick around for more than a year, a rare occurrence for Hornets bosses over the past few seasons.
All the fuss over Silva distracts from what is an important game for Everton as they try and turn their season around.
Wednesday’s performance against Manchester City was a step in the right direction, the players at least showed some spirit and battling qualities, which was warmly appreciated by the fans.
Goodison appeared more unified than it had been in a long time, and although it was yet another defeat I at least felt there was something to build on unlike in previous defeats recently.
Conceding yet another set piece goal is clearly an issue and something I think counts most against Silva. All the arguments about not having all his own players and needing time to adapt to his style of play are valid. Failing to set up a team that can defend free-kicks and corners isn’t.
There is obviously little time to put that right ahead of Saturday’s game, but you’d hope that during the 17 day gap before their next match the players can do some serious work on the training ground to try and correct a weakness that is completely undermining our season.
Watford finally seem to be achieving something they haven’t managed in several years - stability.
The Hornets rifled through eight managers in five-and-a-half years under ownership of the Pozzo family before Gracia’s arrival last January to become number nine.
He is the first Watford boss to manage more than 38 league games - ie a full Premier League season - since Gianfranco Zola in 2013.
To counter that, the Pozzo’s will argue that the club hasn’t overly suffered by chopping and changing managers. Since promotion in 2015 the club have since established themselves in the top flight and even reached an FA Cup semi-final in 2016.
They currently find themselves in eighth place and finally look to have found a manager in Gracia who can stay in the long-term, until we take him in the summer of course (that was a joke Watford fans, calm down).
There are a couple of former Toffees in the Watford squad, the workmanlike and honest Tom Cleverley and the enigmatic but often frustrating Gerard Deulofeu. Don’t rule out either ‘coming back to haunt’ Everton on Saturday.
Speaking of coming back to haunt things, it would be nice if Silva could silence the boo-boys with a result at Vicarage Road, but his players will likely have to take some rough stuff from the Watford players to earn any points.
Speaking at a Watford Supporters’ Club event earlier this week, captain Troy Deeney asked the fans not to taunt Silva but let the players “kick the sh*t” out of the Everton players instead.
Silva has confirmed that Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines will again miss out through injury. Yerry Mina is doubtful with a foot injury suffered at Millwall two weeks ago.
The Toffees boss also confirmed that Ademola Lookman missed out in midweek because of a ‘technical decision’ rather than injury and will be available for the weekend.
With such a long gap until our next game it would be lovely to have something to cling on to by getting some sort of result at Vicarage Road.
Everton took baby steps towards recovery in midweek but the team is still nowhere near their best form and continue to look vulnerable at the back.
With four of our five remaining home games against sides in the top six, there is greater emphasis to get results on the road if we are to achieve our aim of finishing seventh.
That is something eminently achievable at Vicarage Road on Saturday, though they will have to cut through a lot of noise and nonsense first.