A raucous, bearpit of an atmosphere is guaranteed as Everton, stung by a feeling of burning injustice, take on Manchester United at Goodison Park as the Premier League resumes after the international break.
But this was no ordinary recess, in fact it was one of the most extraordinary weeks in Everton’s recent history (and that is saying something after the last few years).
Everyone associated with the club was stunned by the unprecedented 10-point deduction issued by the Premier League commission. But that anger has been channelled into action, with the club instantly preparing an appeal and the supporters organising visible protests against the Premier League.
Now it is the players turn.
They were reportedly equally shocked at the news but have quickly used it to galvanise the squad and see it is just another challenge to be overcome. The club is probably as united as it has been in several years, which I doubt was the league’s intention when they handed down such a draconian punishment.
The reality though is Everton dropped from the relative safety of mid-table and back into the bottom three, their fine recent run of results erased at a stroke.
Even when taking into account the struggles of the three newly-promoted clubs Everton are now again in a relegation battle. They cannot assume any appeal will reduce the punishment so have to drag themselves away from danger themselves.
While all of the pre-game focus will be on Everton, this is an equally important match for Manchester United and boss Erik ten Hag.
The Red Devils have lost three of their last five games in all competitions and were far from convincing in 1-0 victories over Fulham and Luton. Indeed all seven of their league wins this campaign have been by a single goal.
With their Champions League hopes also in the balance and proposed investment by billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe yet to be rubber stamped, it has been an uncertain few weeks for the club both on and off the pitch.
They do however boast a fine record over Everton, losing just two of the last 19 meetings with United beating Everton three times in all competitions last season. They are also the league’s form team going into the weekend’s matches, even if their performances have not quite matched up to results.
The Red Devils will, however, be without manager Ten Hag on the touchline as he serves a touchline ban, with assistant coach Mitchell van der Gaag leading the team from the bench.
Man Utd 2-0 Everton, 8 April 2023
A routine win for United on a sunny day at Old Trafford in April with goals from Scott McTominay and (who else) Anthony Martial sealing the points.
Seamus Coleman could make his first appearance since May after recovering from a knee injury suffered at Leicester last season.
Amadou Onana is set to miss out though as he nurses a calf issue. Andre Gomes and Dele Alli are back training on grass but not yet ready for a competitive return.
What they said
Everton boss Sean Dyche: “Like everyone in these parts, I was shocked [by the decision]. The wave of noise after that suggests most people around football are shocked. The enormity of it, disproportionate is a word that has been used by the club. Obviously, we are going to feel aggrieved by that.
“On the other hand, it doesn’t change the focus. The focus since I got here has been sorting things out on the pitch. Getting the team to win, getting the team to feel different, the performances to feel different. We were on the right lines for that, then this has given us a push backwards but only to come forward again. The job hasn’t changed.
“This enhances what we are doing. We have to go harder for longer and play stronger. They are the rules of football and this is what it is.”
Man Utd boss Erik ten Hag: “I can see the opposition, I can see they are mad. We know they are mad and that is their fuel. We have to match that and those standards.
‘’I can’t tell [you his thoughts on the 10-point deduction] because I don’t know the details about it. So I don’t have an opinion about that because we are not Everton.
“The fans I can imagine are very mad, but we can’t do [anything about] it and we have to just play against them.
“We have to match their standards. When we match the standards, we have a great chance to win the game.”
This is set to be one of Goodison’s most thunderous afternoons, but calm heads will be needed on the pitch of they are to get a result against a very good side. Dyche exuded a calmness in his pre-match press conference yesterday that he will be hoping gets through to his squad even while the Blues in the stands will be raising raucous hell in every sense of the word.