Everton return to Premier League action against Wolves buoyed by their entertaining 4-2 victory against League One Lincoln in the Carabao Cup.
I must admit that after so many years of glorious failure in cup competitions my patience and belief have been severely worn down. Therefore you can imagine the feeling of dread when Everton conceded a goal after 20 seconds.
But credit must go to the players who did a thoroughly professional job, despite being pegged back at 2-2 through an absolute howitzer of a volley in the second half. They more than deserved to win the game and a 4-2 scoreline was probably fair given the performances of the two sides.
After scoring just once in three games it was also nice to see the Blues register four times, particularly Richarlison, who registered his first of the season. Just as important was the added fitness gained by the likes of Alex Iwobi, Moise Kean and Djibril Sidibé as they continue to settle into life at Goodison Park.
Iwobi in particular has proven a hit with the supporters after impressing in his short time in a blue shirt. He was unlucky not to score during his brief cameo at Villa before deservedly hitting the net at Sincil Bank. He has to be in contention to start on Sunday. Fabian Delph also looks to be just the sort of player we have missed in the middle of the park since Gareth Barry left (it’s no surprise given he arrived from Man City, that there have been comparisons with Barry, even if he is a slightly different player). Kean also looked bright, though I’d still be tempted to keep him on the bench on Sunday before unleashing him when the game is stretched late on.
The Toffees will look to continue their fine recent record at Goodison, which has proven to be the bedrock of their recent revival in form.
Sunday’s game is against one of the sides expected to rival Everton for a European spot so you could say it’s a bit of a “seventh-place six-pointer’.
Wolves were convincing winners back in February against an Everton side still scrabbling for form. At the very least I would expect the Toffees to put up a better fight than the limp effort they put in that day.
Despite our turnaround in form since then our away results are still a concern, as demonstrated by that defeat at Villa, which makes our home games even more important. The team also struggles against sides with a low block and with Wolves likely to play on the counter on Sunday, this is likely to be another early test to see how Silva can solve a problem that has hamstrung his side all too often over recent months.
Wolves have been on a steady upward trajectory over the past two seasons as the takeover by Chinese investment company Fosun International starts to bear fruit.
The appointment of Nuno Espirto Santo as head coach in May 2017 was a crucial moment, with the former Porto boss guiding the Black Country side to the Championship title in his first season in charge and a first top-flight campaign for six years.
They took the Premier League by storm last season, finishing seventh, their highest finish since 1980 and securing their first European campaign since 1981.
As Everton found two years ago, the Europa League qualifying schedule is gruelling, with Wolves 2019-20 season starting on July 25. However, like the Toffees Wolves have successfully negotiated the qualifying rounds to reach the group stages starting next month.
Squeezed in-between those European games have been three Premier League draws with Leicester, Manchester United and Burnley – the latter of which required a 97th-minute penalty from Raul Jimenez to secure a point.
Everton 1-3 Wolves February 2 2019 (match report)
Everton’s miserable winter was reaching its nadir when Wolves came away with all three points on a miserable afternoon for the Toffees at Goodison Park.
Andre Gomes’ first Everton goal cancelled out Ruben Neves’ early penalty, but goals from Raul Jimenez and Leander Dendoncker secured all three points for the Black Country side.
Lincoln (A – Carabao Cup) Won 4-2
Aston Villa (A) Lost 2-1
Crystal Palace (A) Drew 0-0
Watford (H) Won 1-0
Torino (H – EL qualifier) Won 2-1
Burnley (H) Drew 1-1
Torino (A – EL qualifier) Won 3-2
Man Utd (H) Drew 1-1
Pyunik (H – EL qualifier) Won 4-0
What they said
Everton boss Marco Silva: “We have to be at our best level, like always in the Premier League,” said Silva.
“We know all about Wolves, they had a very good season last time and this will be their third season with almost all the same players together.
“They know each other and have changed nothing this season.
“They are strong on the counter-attack, they will be solid and waiting for the opportunity to counter to try to cause us problems.
“It is up to us to play in our way, how we like to play. We must have a good balance – prepare well in attack and be ready when we lose the ball because in those moments they are really strong.”
Wolves coach Nuno Espirito Santo: “We’re going to use it (Thursday’s win) in the best way that we can. We’ll try to compete the way we compete, we competed well, we have to do it again. We’re going to look at Everton now. They’re a good team.
“What we did was amazing (at Goodison Park last season), but now we have to go again. We are talking about a very good squad, a very good manager, it’s going to be a big, big test for us. Their home form shows how good they are and how well they do things.”
Marco Silva has confirmed that Jean-Philippe Gbamin is Everton’s only injury absentee. That means Fabian Delph came through his first appearance of the season unscathed and is in contention to retain his place in the starting line-up.
Alex Iwobi and Moise Kean also impressed on their first starts of the campaign and may well keep their places on Sunday.
Leander Dendoncker is Wolves’ only injury doubt after picking up a knock against Torino but is expected to be fit.
Ruben Neves, Matt Doherty and Ryan Bennett were rested for that game and are expected to return to the starting line-up.
Wolves are again likely to be among a small group of sides, including Everton, that will compete for seventh place and even try and smash into the top six, meaning this game may prove crucial in the final shake up.
How Wolves handle the Thursday/Sunday slog will go a long way to deciding their fate, so it will be interesting to see how they perform on Sunday so soon after their qualifying victory over Torino.
Everton had a midweek game of their own of course but Toffees fans will hope that win at Lincoln will generate momentum rather than result in tired legs. This one is likely to be close.