Everton will look to keep up their perfect home record under Carlo Ancelotti when they face Newcastle United on Tuesday in the Italian’s third game at Goodison.
Ancelotti has already faced Newcastle as Everton manager; the reverse fixture took place just three weeks ago, which the Blues won 2-1 thanks to a Dominic Calvert-Lewin brace.
Steve Bruce’s men sit 12th in the table, one place behind Everton but only due to their inferior goal difference.
Both clubs will look to extend their unbeaten league run to a third match, knowing that a win could see them enter the top half.
Ahead of Tuesday’s game, we spoke to Newcastle fan and writer Graeme Bell:
RBM: Firstly, after a Christmas blip of three straight defeats, Newcastle have since drawn at Wolves and beaten Chelsea. How impressed have you been by their response?
Graeme: It is a trait of this Newcastle side; they generally react well after a bad run of form. So, it doesn’t surprise me that they’ve bounced back from the blip over Christmas.
RBM: How realistic is a top-half finish for Newcastle this season, and how great an achievement would that be?
Graeme: It has to be realistic now. The Premier League this year is very strange with a lot of teams being inconsistent. Newcastle can capitalise on that; we’re in touching distance, but we must build on the Chelsea victory.
RBM: At the time of writing, Newcastle have made no additions in the January transfer window. Is there anywhere that you think needs strengthening particularly this month?
Graeme: Nabil Bentaleb is due to arrive on loan from Schalke; his addition will bolster the middle of midfield. Due to the injuries to Jetro Willems and Paul Dummett, a left-back is a priority now.
Newcastle also need another striker and a winger; with time running out in the window, it’s unlikely they’ll get everything they need.
RBM: Given Newcastle are relatively comfortable in mid-table, and their 65-year major trophy drought, is this still a more important game to you than Saturday’s FA Cup fourth round tie at home to Oxford United?
Graeme: Saturday is a big game; Newcastle and a cup run just doesn’t happen, especially under Mike Ashley’s ownership. Newcastle have a great chance of progressing even further.
However, Newcastle aren’t that far away from the relegation zone, so it is vital they pick up points against Everton.
RBM: Defenders Jetro Willems and Paul Dummett will miss the rest of the season through injury. How big a loss could they be to Newcastle?
Graeme: Huge. Willems has been fantastic all season; it’s a huge blow. Losing a versatile player in Dummett is also a big blow, Newcastle are now very short at left-back. Thank God for Matt Ritchie’s return.
RBM: In last month’s reverse fixture, Newcastle profited hugely from Andy Carroll’s knock-downs. With Carroll also out of Tuesday’s game, should we expect a less direct approach?
Graeme: There will still be a direct approach, Newcastle will want Joelinton to hold the ball up while Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almirón come up to support him.
RBM: How do you expect Newcastle to set up on Tuesday?
Graeme: I expect the same side to start that beat Chelsea with the exception of Willems; Ritchie will come in to replace the Dutchman.
(5-4-1) Dúbravka; Krafth, Fernández, Lascelles, Clark, Ritchie; Almirón, Hayden, Shelvey, Saint-Maximin; Joelinton.
RBM: Which of Newcastle’s players do you think can cause Everton the most problems?
Graeme: Almirón and Saint-Maximin; they are the ones that will grab the game by the scruff of the neck.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Tuesday’s game?
Graeme: I was hopelessly wrong last time! But I’ll go for an entertaining 1-1.
Our thanks to Graeme for his time.