Everton welcome newly-promoted Nottingham Forest to Goodison Park in a match that has taken on fresh significance following back-to-back defeats to start the season.
Like the Chelsea game Everton weren’t that bad against Aston Villa last weekend but momentary losses of concentration cost them at one end, while an anaemic attack cost them at the other.
It leaves Everton down amongst the dead men at the foot of the table, one of three teams with zero points along with West Ham and Manchester United.
It is obvious they need a striker, but Toffees fans have grown increasingly concerned this week as it became increasingly apparent one wouldn’t arrive in time for Saturday.
Rumours linking Anthony Gordon with a move to Chelsea, and the ensuing debate it sparked, has also occupied frazzled Evertonian minds, along with the somewhat surprising news that Dele Alli could be headed to Turkey.
Such frustration is understandable given Richarlison was sold six weeks ago and it is nearly three weeks since Dominic Calvert-Lewin was injured, but I feel Frank Lampard and Kevin Thelwell deserve the benefit of the doubt. This their first window together after all and the signings they have made so far all make sense.
The latest news that Everton were close to securing the loan signing of starlet Mohamed Kudus is just another one of those moves that show an eye towards the future while securing the present.
That said a win on Saturday would go a long way to alleviating some of the pressure that has been slowly building. As I mentioned last week certain parts of the media love to have a pop at Lampard so a third loss here and there will likely be a flurry of ugly headlines.
Nottingham Forest make a welcome return to the top flight after a 23-year absence.
The two-time European champions have spent a rocky two decades in the wilderness, including a three-year spell in League One. But Steve Cooper managed to do what 30 of his predecessors failed to do and lead them back to the top flight with a 1-0 win over Huddersfield in the play-offs.
They have responded by going on a remarkable spending spree, splashing out more than £100m on 16 new players, the latest being Everton target Morgan Gibbs-White, with more likely to follow before the deadline.
It is an astonishing transfer window and means the the team is unrecognisable from last season, though the lively Brennan Johnson, also a rumoured Everton target before Forest’s promotion, is likely to build on last year’s fine campaign where he scored 19 goals.
They began the campaign with a 2-0 defeat at Newcastle but grabbed their first victory against West Ham last weekend at a raucous City Ground, though they needed a touch of fortune to secure the win, with the Hammers hitting the woodwork three times and missing a penalty.
Everton 0-1 Nottingham Forest, January 30 1999
There have been no cup meetings in the intervening years so you have to go back to 1999 for the last time Everton faced Nottingham Forest, with Pierre van Hoojidonk scoring the only goal for Ron Atkinson’s side against Walter Smith’s Toffees at Goodison Park.
Everton will be without Abdoulaye Doucoure who is expected to be sidelined for three weeks with a hamstring injury suffered at Villa last weekend. New signing Amadou Onana, who impressed as a substitute in the Midlands, could make his first start.
With Dominic Calvert-Lewin still out Anthony Gordon or Salomon Rondon will lead the line.
Conor Coady will make his home debut, while Allan is fit to return to the squad after missing much of pre-season through injury. Yerry Mina, Ben Godfrey, Andre Gomes and Andros Townsend are out long term.
What they said
Everton manager Frank Lampard: “Nottingham Forest have invested heavily in their squad and have got lots of talent.
“They’re hard to analyse because of that [the new players] and they have a very good coach. We obviously have an idea of the way they play, and certain characteristics they show regardless of personnel.
“We’ll respect them, but it’s game to focus a lot on ourselves. At Goodison, I’m confident in what we do and confident we’ll have the fans behind us.
“The mood is good in the squad. We had Conor Coady and Amadou Onana coming in after the Chelsea game, so we’re in an early transitional period.
“We’re trying to evolve our game but, at the same time, we have to have a sense of where we are. We showed spirit and character [at the end of last season]. Now we want to develop a little, but it’s a building process. We have to maintain that spirit and try to be a bit braver on the ball in certain situations.
“There have been some good signs [in the opening two matches] and we’ll only get better the more we work.”
Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper: “Any game in the Premier League is difficult but certainly away from home against Everton will always be a tough fixture but one we’ll commit to.
“Goodison Park is an iconic stadium in this division and always creates a good atmosphere, so we’ve got to go there knowing that will be the case but we go with good confidence following the work we’ve put in this week.
“We try and only think about ourselves, we respect the opponents and we are aware of the strengths Everton have but we’ve got to focus on our ideas and we want to win every game we play in.”
Forgive my pessimism, but this match is making me nervous. Playing newly-promoted teams early in the season is always tough, especially a team like Forest who a revelling being back in the big time for so long. Throw into the fact Everton are winless and striker-less and it has all the ingredients for another fun afternoon in L4.