Everton will look to put their first defeat of the season at Southampton behind them when they travel to Newcastle United on Sunday.
St James’ Park holds happy memories for Carlo Ancelotti, who made it two wins from as many games as Everton manager last December as a Dominic Calvert-Lewin brace secured a 2-1 victory.
But the Blues were denied a league double over Newcastle when, in January’s reverse fixture, they conceded two goals in the final minute of injury time to draw 2-2 at Goodison Park.
Steve Bruce’s side have had a middle start to 2020-21 - winning, drawing and losing two games each of their six matches so far.
Ahead of Sunday’s game, we spoke to Graeme Bell, writer for Newcastle site NE1’s Game:
RBM: Firstly, with eight points from their first six games, how would you rate Newcastle’s start to the season?
Graeme: It’s an OK start points wise, nothing spectacular. Performance wise it’s been atrocious. During my time as a Newcastle United supporter, I’ve never been so fed up. We are the most boring team in the league with no attacking intent.
RBM: Despite another proposed takeover falling through at Newcastle, they still spent in the region of £35 million on new signings this summer. Does Mike Ashley deserve any credit for that?
Graeme: I’m not sure why Mike Ashley would deserve credit for doing what he’s actually here to do. Let’s face it, though - £35 million doesn’t get you much in this overinflated market.
RBM: As an outsider, there seems to be quite a lot of hostility from Newcastle fans to Steve Bruce, himself a boyhood Geordie. If so, why do you think this is?
Graeme: I think the majority of us have given Bruce a fair chance. I think the main issue is there’s been no progression at all.
Looking at us this season, the team are going backwards despite the new additions. There’s no game plan or identity - it’s all players behind the ball and pray for a slice of luck. It’s not good enough.
RBM: Newcastle seem to do an awful lot of defending for a side with so many gifted attacking players, like Allan Saint-Maximin, Miguel Almiron and Callum Wilson. Is Bruce too negative?
Graeme: In a word, yes. As I alluded to earlier, there’s just no game plan at all. The players know their formation but have no further instructions, so it’s like 11 lost footballers on a pitch.
RBM: Newcastle have won only two home league games since last season resumed in June. Is the absence of a crowd having a detrimental effect on them at St James’ Park?
Graeme: I don’t think it’s just us, no. There simply isn’t any home advantage now, and we’ve seen that across all the leagues, not just the Premier League.
RBM: What would represent a successful season for Newcastle this year?
Graeme: As is the case under Ashley, the main aim is to avoid relegation. If that happens, that will be seen as a success and that’s how far this club has fallen over the last 13 years or so.
RBM: How do you expect Newcastle to set up on Sunday?
Graeme: Now there’s a question! I don’t even think Bruce knows the answer to this. It’s anyone’s guess!
RBM: Which of Newcastle’s players do you think can cause Everton the most problems?
Graeme: If Saint-Maximin is in the mood then he will cause all sorts of problems. He has everything - pace, power and he’s a nuisance for the opposition.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Sunday’s game?
Graeme: Unfortunately, I can’t see anything but an Everton win. Calvert-Lewin will have a field day against our defence. 1-3 Everton.
Our thanks to Graeme for his time.