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Everton’s road ahead has obstacles, and opportunities too

While the Reds and Chelsea won’t be easy at all, Leicester City and Watford are matches that the Toffees must take advantage of.

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Everton v Leicester City - Premier League
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 20: Everton manager Frank Lampard celebrates the equaliser during the Premier League match
Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

This 2021-22 Everton season hasn’t been the easiest for the team, the players or the supporters either. While the Toffees sit above the relegation zone by only a single point (at the time that this piece was written), there can be no rest for Frank Lampard or the players wearing the shirts at this moment; games against Liverpool on Sunday and Chelsea the following weekend will ask difficult questions of the Blues, but if they can get through those matches without falling into the final three on the Premier League table, opportunities to make up points do still exist going forward.

Leicester City and Watford lie waiting after those matches, and Everton can and should compete with the former, while dispatching with relative ease the latter. No Premier League game is a shoo-in, to be sure, yet the Toffees have the players and pedigree of a better team - as last season is a testament to.

But against Liverpool this coming Sunday, there will be little reprieve from constant and consistent pressing and attacking. Luis Diaz - a former Blues target - has been a fantastic addition to Liverpool during the past winter transfer window, and will be a handful for Everton as he has been for nearly every team that has seen him since his move from Portugal. The rest of his teammates will have a great deal to say as well, such as Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota, as will Jurgen Klopp; Frank Lampard and company will have to play as close to a perfect match as is possible over the course of 90+ minutes of game time.

Everton must continue to step up without a healthy and effective DCL

This effort should be including Dominic Calvert-Lewin, yet it will not. The “small injury” that was recently sustained, and cost the number nine the Leicester City match, will keep him out of the Merseyside Derby and perhaps even the Chelsea affair as well. This season has been rather unfortunate regarding injuries for DCL, and the number nine has missed large swathes of this season because of toe and quadriceps injuries.

For Frank Lampard and the entire side regarding the upcoming stretch of matches, this is an issue, but the other names in this squad - young and old - will have to continue to develop and step up without Calvert-Lewin. While Richarlison continues to demonstrate talent and vigor in the absence of this team’s number nine, Anthony Gordon and Demarai Gray must continue to give more each and every week too on either side of the Brazilian.

They will have to have a strong midfield behind them, and a sturdy, organized defense in front of Jordan Pickford. Against Liverpool, no victories can be dreamt of without competent build-up play, and Everton have not always demonstrated that they are capable of either this season.

Therefore, taking a point from the Liverpool match at Anfield would obviously be a really positive innovation with their form and record this season - as the boss candidly stated - and would set the Blues up well heading into the matchup with Chelsea the following weekend.

Thomas Tuchel’s side hasn’t looked particularly fantastic recently - in either England or Europe - and while it will be a tough affair, that team is certainly more vulnerable than are Liverpool at this current moment.

Stopping that attack will be difficult in much the same way as it will be against Liverpool, but Chelsea are a defensively weaker outfit than are the Reds. While they possess talent and pedigree across the backline, they have not looked the composed defensive side they appeared earlier in the Thomas Tuchel era.

Everton should be able to attack Chelsea if they can wrestle the ball away from the likes of Kai Havertz, Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner, Jorginho and N’golo Kante; that, of course, is no easy task however. The likes of some combination of Allan, Fabian Delph Alex Iwobi, Abdoulaye Doucoure, and Dele Alli will have to find possession and create chances for themselves, as well as for the likes of Gray, Richy and Gordon; Andre Gomes and Donny van de Beek will be unavailable for the match on Sunday.

A point against this lot would be positive, but this has the feel of a possible trap game for the away side. Goodison Park will be no friendly facility to Chelsea, and Frank Lampard will want a bit of payback against the team that he played for many years with, and recently coached as well. Everton will know they need all the points they can get, and will wish to win one for the boss undoubtedly as well.

The road ahead for Everton does get less daunting after Chelsea

The next match for Everton after Chelsea will be Leicester City, and the Foxes will be another tough match for this team - as was witnessed at Goodison Park midweek. Brendan Rogers will wish for his Foxes to prove that the draw that Everton recently won for itself really was “undeserved” to some degree; Richarlison would beg to differ, of course, but the Toffees will have a chance to prove as an entire outfit that they were deserving of what they got from the previous match.

Three points are possible against this ninth-place team - even at their place - but the Blues will have to start out hotter and better than they did against the Foxes only days ago. Everton have made a bit of a habit of stealing points at or near the death of a match, but good, positive matches must be strung together for these Toffees to put some distance between themselves and relegation territory once again.

Watford, the match after Leicester, is a must-win game, therefore. In a match against the 19th place Premier League team, that is in the very same relegation battle as the Toffees find themselves- except in an even worse position - Everton must take three points and use the Hornets to push themselves up the table as best they can.

Earning six points in the two matches after Liverpool and Chelsea, therefore, is a realistic prediction, and one which could give the Toffees a bit of space as the final three matches of the season loom. Eight points from the next four matches would put pressure on Leeds as much as it would relieve pressure from this team and the Everton players, while setting the Blues up for a final three matches that include Brentford, Crystal Palace and finally Arsenal at Goodison Park. Oh, what a wild finish this is all sure to be, and points in the next four matches would assure a happy ending to a long, difficult Everton season this year.