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Everton v Newcastle: Match Preview | Goodison’s last dance under the lights?

The Grand Old Lady may only have a few top-flight games left

Everton v Newcastle United - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

I was alerted to a horrendous thought by a fellow Evertonian this week – Thursday’s match against Newcastle could potentially be the last ever Premier League game under lights at Goodison Park.

If that doesn’t focus the minds nothing will.

The reality of relegation edged ever closer at the weekend despite a battling draw at Crystal Palace, with Leicester’s win over Wolves on the same day pushing the Toffees into the relegation zone on goal difference.

I’ve spoken to Leicester, Forest and Leeds fans this week and they all think their team is destined for the drop.

Football fans are a pessimistic bunch.

Crystal Palace v Everton FC - Premier League

The reality though is that the margin for error decreases with every match, though Everton’s fate does at least still lie in their own hands.

But for it to stay that way you feel they have to take something from both their next two matches against the Magpies and the Foxes, in what will be a nail-biting six-pointer at the King Power Stadium on Monday.

To do so though Everton have to start offering more of an attacking threat. A lack of goals has hampered them all season and will be the prime reason why they go down if that grim eventuality comes upon us.

The return to fitness of Dominic Calvert-Lewin is a huge boost and at time of writing it seems he came through the Palace game unscathed. But in order to take advantage he needs to be given service, which only arrived in patches at Selhurst Park.

Crystal Palace v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

The return of Abdoulaye Doucoure and Amadou Onana from suspension and injury respectively will be significant as it will mean Sean Dyche can revert to the formation deployed in his first few weeks as manager that brought wins against Arsenal, Leeds and Brentford.

Then there is the other key factor, the Goodison crowd.

It has been another eventful few days off the pitch after Bill Kenwright’s ill-timed and pretty inflammatory pen letter. But this is not the time for recriminations. With the club’s future on the line the supporters need to gear themselves up for one last push, with the coach greeting making a welcome return.

If we are to go down, then at least go down swinging.

Everton v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images

The opposition

If Everton are the textbook example of what not to do with significant investment, Newcastle are perhaps the opposite.

Yes, the source of their money is controversial but the way they have spent it is not.

Measured, targeted recruitment got them out of relegation trouble last season and further progress this season has turned them into Champions League contenders.

It isn’t just new signings either. Manager Eddie Howe has taken players who struggled in previous Magpies sides such as Joelinton and Sean Longstaff and turned them into consistent Premier League performers.

They even warmed up for this game by absolutely hammering hapless Spurs 6-1 at St James’ Park on Sunday.

Newcastle United v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

It all adds up to a tough test for Everton, with the return of Anthony Gordon – who left Everton under such a cloud in January – adding even more spice to the fixture.

Last year’s match so Alex Iwobi score a 99th minute winner for the 10-man Toffees and seal what proved to be a vital three points in the battle against the drop. A repeat here would do just fine.

Previous meeting

Newcastle 1-0 Everton 19 October 2022

Newcastle United v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by George Wood/Getty Images

A flat, lifeless Everton slipped to a disappointing defeat at St James’ Park in October thanks to Miguel Almiron’s curling long-range effort.

Team news

Everton training Session Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Abdoulaye Doucoure is available for Everton after completing his three-match suspension, but Mason Holgate begins a one-match band after his red card at Crystal Palace.

Amadou Onana could return after a groin strain caused him to miss the last two matches. He and Seamus Coleman, who has been out with a hamstring strain, trained this week are are in contention.

What they said

Crystal Palace v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

Everton manager Sean Dyche: “They signed players in January and in the summer. But also, there’s been good coaching, I have always respected Eddie, what he has done and continues to do. That’s clear from the table and their league performances.

“We know we must start well in every game. We have in a lot since I have been here. We have to continue that but also add to it. What I talk about is in terms of consistency throughout a game. We have had strong periods in games but haven’t got our noses in front or taken our chances.

“You have to keep that consistent performance throughout the 90 minutes, that’s still a working process. We are looking to start the game well and will of course be ably supported by our fans.”

Newcastle United v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe: “I think Everton have got some very strong players. They’ve had a difficult season with changing manager. Sean’s come in with his vast experience and is almost the perfect man for the job because he’s been there many, many times and he’s always found a way to keep this team up. He did an incredible job at Burnley and now coming into Everton, I think he has his style and his way of playing, and I think the positive thing for them is he has the players to execute that plan.

“We’re going to need to be very strong mentally, physically - we need to be robust. We’re going to need to stand up to the challenges that we face and then show our quality.”

Final word

It really is crunch time now. Another defeat here and survival may be taken out of Everton’s hands.