Everton head to the City Ground to take on Nottingham Forest in a match they probably cannot afford to lose if they are to avoid being cut adrift in the bottom three.
It still feels remarkable to say that given the season Everton have had, but that unprecedented 10-point deduction has suddenly cranked up the pressure heading into one of the busiest periods of the season.
Evertonians are still seething at the scale of the punishment and the furious protest that lit up Sunday’s match against Manchester United at Goodison Park will be taken on the road as the 1878s has confirmed plans for more banners and cards for the Forest game.
In the latest ‘Everton that’ moment, about 100 seconds after Sunday’s brilliant organised and orchestrated protest United scored a goal of the season contender.
If it doesn’t rain it pours.
The Toffees only have themselves to blame for not taking the clutch of chances that came their way before the break, a recurring theme at Goodison this season, with United’s second goal killing the game as a contest.
Everton formally submitted their appeal against the 10-point deduction on Friday and are confident they have a robust case, but the players and Sean Dyche cannot rely on getting those points back. They have to try and channel that sense of injustice correctly, reminding themselves they were one of the league’s form teams before this remarkable punishment was meted out.
Saturday’s match also looks to be an important one for Nottingham Forest with reports emerging earlier this week that boss Steve Cooper is under pressure after a poor run of results.
Subsequent briefings suggest he retains the support of owner Evangelos Marinakis, who has in the past earned a reputation for impatience. But from the outside looking in it seems remarkable that the former England U17 boss is under any sort of pressure given the job he has done there.
After keeping them up with plenty to spare last season Forest look well set to avoid the drop this time, given the struggles of the newly promoted side and Everton’s points deduction.
Results have been tough to come by recently, they have won just two of their last 10 games and lost three of their last four, but they remain strong at home, where they have lost just once this season.
Nott’m Forest 2-2 Everton, 5 March 2023
An entertaining early spring encounter back in March so the Toffees twice take the lead through Demarai Gray’s penalty and Abdoulaye Doucoure’s header only to be pegged by a Brennan Johnson double, his second arriving with just 13 minutes left.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin is doubtful for the game after complaining with muscle tightness that caused him to miss training. Everton will take no risks given his recent injury record.
Beto has recovered from a knee injury that saw him miss the United game so would likely start up front if Calvert-Lewin misses out.
Seamus Coleman was an unused substitute against the Red Devils but could feature for the first time since April.
Andre Gomes and Dele Alli are back training on the grass but are not fit enough to make the squad.
What they said
Everton boss Sean Dyche: “The recent facts on what’s happened are facts at this time. We have to park that and move forwards. We’re not going to start worrying about ifs, buts and maybes. The 10 points are currently not there, so basically, we have to see through the rest of it and crack on.
“The biggest thing for me is that it doesn’t change the facts of the matter. When I got here, we had to win more games. That was quite obvious and that doesn’t change – regardless of all the ups and downs and what goes on. I’ve clearly spoken to the players about that, and we’ve agreed. [Winning games] has to be the focus. It always was and it always will be.”
Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper: “I think Everton have been playing well and are in good form, they played well at home last week.
“I was asked last week after their points deduction was announced about what it could mean, and I said straight away that it makes the game even tougher.
“They have a lot of good players with Premier League experience, but we’re really focusing on ourselves.
“We obviously respect every team we come up against and the threats they have, but it’s about how we deal with that and how we impose ourselves on the game.”
With Burnley playing Sheffield United earlier on Saturday Everton could well be bottom of the table when the match kicks off, further cranking up the pressure. Getting even a point to begin the fight back and chip away at that 10-point deduction would be a decent result.