Everton will look to avoid a fourth successive defeat when they take on Crystal Palace at Goodison on Saturday.
The early optimism gained from a six-game unbeaten run has begun to fade as the Toffees start to slide down the table.
No-one is panicking yet and the fans are still firmly behind Frank Lampard, but a result of some description is needed against the Eagles to keep Everton away from the relegation zone.
All three defeats were close affairs in terms of the scoreline, but the Toffees’ lack of creativity was keenly felt, particularly at Tottenham and Newcastle - were they failed to muster a shot on target.
Lampard has done well to tighten the defence up significantly after last season, but that has come at a cost to their offensive play. It is also down to the fact that last season’s top scorer Richarlison was sold over the summer and the previous season’s top scorer Dominic Calvert-Lewin has been injured.
Calvert-Lewin’s return to match fitness cannot come soon enough so it was a boost to see him play 70 minutes unscathed in midweek.
Everton have just four league games before the World Cup break against sides around them in the table. After a tough run of fixtures went as expected, an upturn is needed if we are not to spend the winter break worrying about another relegation battle.
Meetings with Crystal Palace will now forever be associated with THAT game in May when Everton fought back from two goals down to avoid the drop in the most dramatic of circumstances.
The Eagles had little to play for that night as they were on their way to a comfortable 12th-place finish, a successful return for Patrick Vieira after many had tipped the Frenchman to struggle after succeeding Roy Hodgson.
Things got off to a stuttering start this campaign with just one win from their opening seven matches. But back-to-back home wins and a point at Leicester over the last fortnight has steadied the ship and lifted the club into mid-table.
They do, however, have a poor recent record against Everton, winning just one of the last 15 meetings and haven’t taken all three points at Goodison for eight years.
Everton 3-2 Crystal Palace, 19 May 2022
A match that will go down in Everton’s history. The Toffees were 2-0 down at half-time and staring a last-day relegation fight in the face. But second-half goals from Michael Keane, Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin secured the most dramatic of victories, as the tension from the previous few months spilled over into a joyous on-pitch celebration at Goodison Park.
Everton have no fresh injury concerns for the clash with the Eagles, meaning Dominic Calvert-Lewin showed no ill-effects from his outing against Newcastle.
Nathan Patterson is back in full training after a knee injury and could return at Fulham next week. But Yerry Mina is still out with a calf problem.
James Garner is also pushing for a first start after three substitute appearances in recent weeks.
Ben Godfrey is set to step up his rehabilitation next week but he and Andros Townsend will likely return after the World Cup break.
What they said
Everton manager Frank Lampard: “In the summer, the first thing we wanted to look at was the solid nature of the team. We have certainly improved that. The next phase is to continue with that and add goals. Hopefully the personnel we have and having Dominic back will help that.
“Our last home games, against West Ham and then in the second half against Manchester United, we were crossing and creating opportunities… In the West Ham match, we were playing deep into their half, which our crowd wants to see. We have to be a team that makes crosses and chances and stays in the opposition half.
“Tomorrow is a completely different animal [compared to the past three matches] against a very good team in Palace. But we’re back at Goodison and we have an opportunity to ask some of those questions.
“We can’t come away from the fact Goodison is special. When you think of the atmosphere we can create, when players come out and play with passion and the fans relate to that, it’s a big deal for us. We have to use that as one of our weapons.”
Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira: “We know how difficult it is to go there because of the pressure and atmosphere. We had a really good second half and we gave them the opportunity to go back into the game. We have to be ready to compete and perform as best we can.”
“The last few games have been really good, we are growing as a team and at games we show we are in a better place. We show we are improving and that is positive and we have to be consistent.”
I think we are all relived to get back to Goodison Park after a bruising week on the road. It will be a tough match against a team hitting a bit of form, but the Toffees should be looking to take at least a point here to stop the rot.