Three successive wins have rocketed Everton into contention for a Champions League place as they head to top four rivals Chelsea looking to secure their first league win at Stamford Bridge for 27 years.
The Toffees were far from their best at West Brom on Thursday, but the win was hugely significant and potentially one of the most important results of the season as it briefly lifted them into the top four.
So often this team fails to take that giant step and make progress in the table when the opportunity presents itself. Granted, they were only in the Champions League places for a few hours, but Carlo Ancelotti said that even just “touching” the top four would give the team belief going into the season run-in.
The heroics at Anfield would have meant nothing had they not followed it up against Southampton and West Brom. They didn’t play particularly well in either match, but did enough to take six points from the kind of games they struggled with earlier this season.
It also takes the pressure off what looks likely to be one of their toughest remaining fixtures against a Chelsea side bang in form and at a stadium where they have not won this century.
But if this unusual season has shown anything it is this Everton side has the capacity to surprise and end unwanted records.
They head south unbeaten in their last nine Premier League away games and having already won at Tottenham, Leicester and Liverpool, as well as drawing at Manchester United.
The Ancelotti effect.
I think it is safe to say that Everton will be taking on a very different Chelsea side to the one that meekly slipped to a 1-0 defeat at Goodison in December.
Then manager Frank Lampard would only last a few more weeks in the job before being sacked in January, with German Thomas Tuchel swiftly arriving in his place.
The former PSG boss has made an instant impact and fashioned a side that looks like it had more than £200m spent on it last summer.
The Blues are unbeaten under his stewardship, winning eight of his 11 games in charge in all competitions.
Everton, as mentioned, also don’t have history on their side, having failed to beat Chelsea on their own turf since November 1994.
Monday’s game will also mark exactly a year since Everton played in front of a capacity stadium, against the same opponents at the stadium.
Everton were wretched that day and fell to a deserved 4-0 defeat, with Carlo Ancelotti saying that afternoon was one of his worst in charge of the club.
Heading back 12 months on in fifth place and able to leapfrog Chelsea with a win shows just how much progress has been made in that time, and why the ghosts of Stamford Bridge past should hold no fear the current side.
Everton 1-0 Chelsea, December 12 2020
2,000 fans were allowed back in Goodison for the first time in nine months when Chelsea arrived at the start of December. They were treated to a battling performance and welcome three points as Gyfli Sigurdsson’s first-half penalty was enough to secure victory.
West Brom (A) Won 1-0
Southampton (H) Won 1-0
Liverpool (A) Won 2-0
Man City (H) Lost 3-1
Fulham (H) Lost 1-0
Liverpool (A) Won 1-0
Man Utd (H) Drew 0-0
Atletico Madrid (A - Champions League) Won 1-0
Southampton (A) Drew 1-1
Newcastle (H) Won 2-0
Everton will once again assess James Rodriguez, Tom Davies and Seamus Coleman after the trio missed the last two matches through injury.
Fabian Delph is definitely still sidelined while Yerry Mina is still recovering from a calf problem.
There were Twitter rumours on Sunday suggesting a possible injury suffered by Abdoulaye Doucoure but there had been nothing official as I write this. Fingers crossed there is nothing in it.
What they said
Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti: “Our results away were helped by a really good defence.
“And when you put this strength along with the quality we have in counter-attack and on set-pieces [then we can achieve good results].
“I hope to continue this against Chelsea. It would be fantastic to do this. To play against them, we have to be strong.
“We have 12 games until the end of the Premier League season. We have to be focused on the next game, which is Chelsea, but we also have to be focused on the other 11.”
“They have not lost any games with Tuchel and they are solid. This doesn’t mean that [previous manager] Frank Lampard didn’t do a good job. In my opinion, Lampard did a fantastic job when he was there.
“Tuchel is a young manager but he has already had experience in Germany, in Paris, and so he is a manager with a lot of knowledge. He is a young manager a lot of ambition.
“I am older, of course, but I still have strong, strong ambition!”
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel: “There is only one point difference between the teams. Everton had a very strong start to the season, had a big win at Anfield and have kept the momentum going.
“They have a very strong squad, very physical, full of talent. They have got strong strikers, a dangerous number ten with James, strong experienced players, super strong manager at the sidelines.
“Carlo knows how to keep momentum going, how to keep the flow going. It is good that these games are on and it is good that we have the next big, big match because that drives us, gets us out of bed early.
“Then it is a very natural process to be at our top level again because you don’t need many words. The situation is very clear. It does not change.
“We will need the next top level performance to be able to win and this is what we are up for at Stamford Bridge.”
To say this was a free hit would be dumbing down Everton’s ambition, but the Toffees can certainly head to west London free of pressure knowing defeat would not be terminal to their European ambitions. However, their form on the road this season - particularly against the so-called ‘big six’ - means they should go there with no fear and have the belief they can get the win, while at the same time ending yet another away ground hoodoo that has haunted the club for far too long.