Everton are returning to the pitch to play some football for the first time since mid-December, and will be looking to take another three points from a really gritty Brighton outfit.
The road has been tough for each team since they last met at the end of August, yet while both clubs could use three points, it is the Toffees who sit in 15th with just 19 points through 17 matches. Brighton is a bit more comfortable in position, sitting in 10th on the league table with 24 points, but can afford a loss little more than Everton themselves can as the month of January begins.
RBM: First off, after a really positive start to the campaign, Brighton have just won their first match since the end of September when they took three points from Brentford on Boxing Day. They then followed that up with a draw against Chelsea just days later; what is the mood like around both the AmEx and Brighton’s training grounds right now?
Although there are some fans who are unhappy - as shown with the booing after the Leeds draw, generally everyone is still positive. We went 11 matches without a win but we only lost two of them - one of them to City so that doesn’t count! And while there is lots of frustration as we were the better team in most of them, we are still playing great stuff (inc coming from two down to outplay and draw against Liverpool at Anfield) and showing great resilience, as shown with some very late equalisers. We know that the problem is still the need for a reliable goalscorer, but apart from that we are still very much headed in the right direction.
RBM: What has gone wrong since September for this club, after the very promising start that everyone was witnessing?
Up until September we were being a lot more clinical and even outperforming our xG. To be fair we also had a pretty kind set of fixtures to start the season (even though they were the kind of matches we dropped points in last season). Since then we’ve fallen into our bad habits of last season in terms of not converting chances. That and some tougher fixtures have turned wins into draws but still very few defeats.
RBM: What can Graham Potter and company do to properly turn this thing around in the new year?
Easier said than done but first keep Welbeck fit to take the goalscoring pressure off Maupay, second get Trossard to be a little more consistent and then somehow get more goals coming from the midfield - goals have actually been spread well around the team but some players could do with weighing in a little more.
RBM: Might Brighton be active in the coming transfer window, and if so, how would they address the woes of the squad in the recent months?
There is a chance that they could bring winger Mitoma back early from his loan at Saint-Gilloise, but otherwise I don’t think there’ll be any incoming to the first team squad, unless a good striker becomes available at a reasonable price, which is unlikely in a January window.
RBM: How do you expect Brighton to set up against the Toffees on Sunday, and who do you think might cause Everton the most problems?
Fitness permitting I expect three at the back, freeing up wing backs Lamptey and Cucurella, who cause everyone problems - just look at how Chelsea resorted to trying to break Lamptey’s legs every time he had the ball last week!
Trossard is carrying a knock so he may not start. If not, I’m hoping to see Alexis MacAllister step up - he is such a talent who perhaps hasn’t had enough opportunities yet but, given the keys to the midfield I think he can become a matchwinner.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Sunday’s match?
I’m pretty pessimistic as we have a terrible record at Goodison and Calvert-Lewin is back - he scares our first-choice defence, let alone one that is missing Dunk and possibly Webster too. Despite your poor form, you seem to be a bit of a bogey team for us, so I’d be happy to leave with an entertaining draw.
Our thanks to Jeremy for his time.