Everton take on Brighton on Monday knowing performances need to drastically improve if they are to secure a place in Europe next season.
Evertonians are still simmering after last Monday’s draw against Crystal Palace, a game the Toffees should have put to bed long before Michy Batsuayi’s 85th-minute equaliser.
If you look on the bright side, Everton created more chances than they have done in recent home games only to be undone by a combination of poor finishing and inspired goalkeeping.
For the glass half-empty among you, Everton have now won just three of their last 13 home games in all competitions, two of those against lower league opposition in the FA Cup – one of which was after extra-time.
You felt it was a must-win game if Everton were to have any chance of making it into the top four (always a distant prospect anyway) with Chelsea, West Ham and Liverpool now starting to pull away.
The challenge now is trying to finish in the top six or seven.
To that end maybe it is a relief to get away from Goodison Park for a bit and look to continue their fine form on the road this season.
Win here and the chase for Europe is back on going into a quartet of matches against sides in and around them in the table.
Brighton are slowly but surely edging their way to safety, with the Seagulls currently six points clear of the relegation zone in 16th place.
For Seagulls fans, however, there is also a sense of frustration that they should be much higher (sound familiar?).
Graham Potter has his side playing neat, possession football but their failure to convert chances has cost them dear – XG is a forbidden word around the Amex Stadium.
Recent defeats against Manchester United, West Brom and especially Crystal Palace don’t really tell the whole story.
Home form is also a concern, with just two wins in the Premier League all season at the Amex Stadium, though it is also a ground where Everton have never won in three attempts.
To add to Seagull fans’ frustrations they have dropped 20 points from losing positions this season, more than any other Premier League side.
They are probably due a game where everything they hit goes in. We all secretly fear what is coming next.
Everton 4-2 Brighton, October 3, 2020
Oh to go back to this early season form. Everton continued their blistering start to the campaign with a 4-2 win over Brighton that was more comfortable than the score line suggests. A brace from James Rodriguez and further goals from Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Yerry Mina sealed the win.
Everton hope Allan and Alex Iwobi will be fit to return after resuming training earlier this week.
GoalkeeperJordan Pickford has also resumed training but is not yet ready to feature.
Andre Gomes suffered a hamstring injury against Palace and joins Fabian Delph and Bernard on the sidelines.
Crystal Palace (H) Drew 1-1
Manchester City (H – FA Cup) Lost 2-0
Burnley (H) Lost 2-1
Chelsea (A) Lost 2-0
West Brom (A) Won 1-0
Man Utd (A) Lost 2-1
Newcastle (H) Won 3-0
Southampton (A) Won 2-1
Leicester (H) Lost 2-1
West Brom (A) Lost 1-0
What they said
Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti: “We have to accept the result [against Palace] and keep the performance, which was much better compared to the past games, then try to win the next games.
“It is a big fight for the European positions and we are there. For us, the game is vital to try to reach the target of Europe.
“For Brighton it is the same, to try to avoid relegation.”
Brighton boss Graham Potter: “It’s not helpful at all (to look at other sides results). The only thing at your club you can do is to concentrate on yourself and what you can affect.
“We’ve been quite consistent and we know this league is very tough.
“You can’t on the one hand say’ this is the best league in the world’ and then think it’s easy to stay in it.
“Everyone’s fighting to be here. You see at the weekend, you’ve seen it constantly, that results are so hard to get for everybody.
“At the same time, you have keep working on yourself and your ideas to compete and to win. That’s what it is.”
This will be a tougher game than Brighton’s position suggests, especially given Everton’s patchy recent form.
But in this strange season the Toffees have retained their capacity to surprise and turn in a result and performance when you least expect it.
Let’s hope it is one of those occasions.