Everton will look to make it three wins in a week to kick-off the new season when they take on West From on Saturday lunchtime.
Excitement levels have rocketed since last weekend’s fine victory at Tottenham, ending a seven-year wait for victory away at one of the so-called ‘big six’.
It could and should have been more, but that is only a minor quibble from an impressive performance that featured a fully-functioning midfield and the kind of left foot we have rarely seen in royal blue since Kevin Sheedy.
The Toffees continued that momentum in the midweek Carabao Cup tie with Salford, despite Carlo Ancelotti making a host of changes, mustering 32 shots on goal, scoring three times and hitting woodwork on five occasions.
That win sets up a trip to League One Fleetwood in round three next week, with another victory there setting up a fourth round clash at home to West Ham or Hull.
Everton cannot complain with the draws they have been handed so far and would only have themselves to blame if they do not reach the last eight.
If they reach that stage then, who knows?
We have been down this road many times before (beat Villa and we go top etc…), but a positive set of results leading up to the derby would tee up that game perfectly.
Ancelotti has spoken about how he wants to change the mentality around Goodison, That includes grasping the opportunities presented to them.
Last weekend was a huge step in the right direction, but will mean little if they do not follow it up.
West Brom have boinged-boinged back into the top flight after a two-year absence, finishing second in the Championship last campaign under former Everton defender Slaven Bilic, who only joined the club last summer.
The Midlands side reached the play-offs the previous season before losing to Aston Villa on penalties (featuring a missed spot-kick by Toffees loanee Mason Holgate).
Prior to that the Baggies had spent eight years in the Premier League, their longest stay in the top flight since the mid 1980s and a welcome period of stability after four promotions and three relegations in eight years during the previous decade.
Bilic has been busy in the transfer market as he readies his side for the new campaign, with last season’s loanees Callum Robinson, Matheus Pereira and Grady Diangana signing permanent deals.
Branislav Ivanovic, linked with Everton earlier this year, has also signed on. Conor Gallagher has joined on loan from Chelsea while Cedric Kipre and David Button have signed from Wigan and Brighton respectively.
Things did not get off to a good start in their Premier League opener last weekend, with Leicester easing to a 3-0 win at The Hawthorns, though they did secure a victory by the same scoreline over League Two newcomers Harrogate in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday.
Recent history suggests Everton should have the edge in this encounter, with the Toffees losing just one of their last 11 meetings with West Brom. The Baggies also have a poor record at Goodison, winning just two of their last 19 visits.
West Brom’s last victory over Everton, in February 2016, was peak Roberto Martinez, with the Toffees enjoying 76% of the possession and having 34 shots on goal, but losing 1-0.
We have to go back to an era we’d rather forget for the last time Everton faced West Brom. Sam Allardyce was the man in the dugout in January 2018 as the Toffees fell behind early on to a Jay Rodriguez strike, only for Oumar Niasse to rescue a point. The game was overshadowed, though, by a broken leg suffered by James McCarthy following an accidental collision with Salomon Rondon.
Carlo Ancelotti will recall the bulk of his first choice XI for Saturday’s game after making 10 changes for the midweek clash with Salford.
The Toffees look short in defence though after Jarrad Branthwaite suffered an ankle injury on Wednesday, joining Mason Holgate (toe) on the sidelines.
Branthwaite is expected to be out for three to five weeks, while Holgate will be absent for two to three months.
Seamus Coleman will start on what will be his 250th Premier League appearance for the club.
What they said
Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti: “The spirit in this moment is good and we want to keep the spirit high with a good result [against West Brom].
“I can say we have a good squad and for this reason we can get a result.
“We need consistency, this is what we missed last season.
“The victory against Tottenham was a victory for spirit not strategy.
“A lot of times we played with the same strategy but missed motivation, concentration and ambition.
“We have to want to be consistent in the future.
“It [ability to be consistent] is to do with mentality.
“How the players focus and concentrate and believe in what we are doing.”
West Brom boss Slaven Bilic: “They [Everton] are a big club, historically in the big five, but they lost it a bit.
“In the last few seasons they are very ambitious. They started with Koeman and now with Ancelotti and they were spending for a few years in a row, big money.
“Now it seems they have bought the right players. Time will tell of course, on paper they look really great, they are maybe the team that is most improved in this transfer window apart from Chelsea.
“But time will tell. They started well so everything went up a little bit, also because they won a tough away game at Spurs.
“Again, saying all that, it means we are facing a very difficult task and opponent on Saturday, but every game is going to be like that for us, every game is going to be a big challenge.
“We have to get used to the Premier League and do our best.”
Remember ‘beat Villa and we go top’? Well, Everton can briefly top the table if they win this early kick-off on Saturday.
Lolz all round.
As you well know, the Toffees have spurned similar opportunities in the past, so to do so now would be hugely significant, even if it is just for a few hours.
If they are to push for Europe this season then they should be winning these sorts of matches - the Blues failed to win any of their home games against the newly-promoted sides last season.
Though West Brom are known for playing attractive football, they are likely to play more defensively than Spurs last weekend, meaning patience will be needed if they fail to break the deadlock straight away.
It is an early litmus test to see if Ancelotti’s influence is really starting to make a difference.