The Blues follow on from Wednesday’s tentative goalless draw at Watford with a return to Goodison Park, hosting a resurgent Brentford outfit in this afternoon’s late game.
Frank Lampard will be in the enviable position of knowing how relegation rivals - Burnley and Leeds United - have fared before his side take to the pitch; if the latter lose to Brighton & Hove Albion at Elland Road then, given Everton’s vastly superior goal difference a draw against the Bees would effectively assure their Premier League survival.
A win for the Yorkshire outfit would pile the pressure on, however.
Burnley’s situation is a little more difficult to assess, as like Everton they have three matches left to play, but certainly defeat away at Tottenham Hotspur would help the Merseysiders’ cause greatly.
Supporter’s groups have once more been making preparations to replicate the sort of atmosphere that helped carry the side to victory over Chelsea and they cannot be credited enough for the effort they’ve been putting in.
So, there’s a huge amount at stake today and we must hope the team continue to show the grit and character which has seen them pick up vital points over the current run of improved form.
Brentford are in a very different place than they were when they last visited Goodison, in an FA Cup Fourth round tie that happened to also be Lampard’s debut as Blues manager. Back then the Londoners were coming off a desultory run of four straight losses in which they’d shipped 12 goals and their early enthusiasm seemed to have dissipated. Their remarkable turnaround can largely be attributed to signing free agent Cristian Eriksen, on the final day of the winter transfer window.
Against all the odds, the Dane - who famously suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch during the Euro 2020 tournament - has resumed his career seamlessly; in fact he’s probably playing better football currently than he was at Inter Milan, before he suffered the incident. Fitted with a cardioverter-defibrillator implant, it is inspirational how he has been able to play again and how Brentford are reaping the benefits. Since Eriksen’s first start for the Bees, against Norwich City, his side have tasted victory in six of their nine matches.
Obtaining a player who was considered an elite midfielder only a couple of seasons ago has been a massive coup for manager Thomas Frank. On top of Brentford’s energetic, physical style of play, he’s been able to add Eriksen’s class and vision. The former Spurs’ man’s set-piece delivery alone has had a major impact on his team’s uptick in form. The aura he possesses has certainly rubbed off on his teammates also.
Everton 4-1 Brentford, February 5th 2022
Lampard’s first match in charge of the Toffees saw them roll straight out of the gate armed with the new boss’ philosophy: high-tempo pressing and passing football and it was great to watch! 1-0 up at halftime, courtesy of Yerry Mina, Richarlison sent Everton two-up shortly after the restart, only for the home side to be immediately pegged back by an Ivan Toney penalty. Mason Holgate re-established a two-goal cushion eight minutes later and the Blues put the icing on the cake with a late fourth, a trademark Andros Townsend strike from range in added time.
Lampard has confirmed that Fabian Delph will be an absentee for today’s match. Both he and fellow injury victim Yerry Mina will likely not be available now until the final game of the season, if at all.
Donny van De Beek and Ben Godfrey may be in the mix after missing recent games, but if so then it is likely to be bench duty only.
What they Said
Everton boss Frank Lampard: “every opponent is different they give you different problems come match day...some basics we need to keep the same which at the minute is work ethic and the attitude of the whole squad”
“We’re not done, we’re not over the line. The minute we switch off or you stop doing the good things you were doing this game can punish you”
“[the bond between the manager and the fans] they want to see the spirit in the team and they want to see results...they’ve been great with me personally...they are supporting the team incredibly well”
“At Goodison we’ve been very, very good...away from home it’s something we’ve had to get our heads around and get better at and recently we have”
“It’s so, so important now that we don’t relax and keep pushing and get the results we need”
“We are not underestimating Brentford, fantastic team, fantastic coach”
“We’ve picked points up at the right time...but we are still in the danger area...it’s important we just focus on the games. Two home games at Goodison we’re happy with that, of course ’cause that’s where we do feel strong, but we absolutely respect the opponents in both games”
Brentford boss Thomas Frank: “[on the atmosphere at Goodison] I’d be...very disappointed if we don’t perform...I’m very much looking forward to the challenge”
“[from Everton] I’m expecting high energy...they will come come flying at us and they will play with that extra edge and determination”
“[on Everton’s league position] it is a big surprise they are down there”
“Everton have got quality players...we face a difficult task on Sunday...they have pace and individual quality up front”
A cautious approach and an acceptance of a point at Watford was understandable considering Everton’s season-long poor away form, but back-to-back matches at Goodison across the next four days will decide the team’s fate. At home, Lampard’s Blues have been no worse than solid so it is time to pick up the required points now to get the Toffees over the line to safety and that task starts this afternoon.