It is the hope that kills you.
Some favourable results over the weekend have once again handed Everton an opportunity to haul themselves out of the Premier League relegation zone - but whether they take it is another matter.
The Toffees sunk closer to the abyss on Thursday with that 4-1 hammering by Newcastle. The supporters created a spine-tingling atmosphere before kick-off and the players responded with a strong opening 20 minutes. But as soon as Newcastle went ahead the belief of both players and crowd ebbed away alarmingly.
The sight of empty seats near the end of the game said it all. Evertonians, ground down by years of underachievement, are reaching despair.
Yet there still is hope.
Nottingham Forest, Leeds and Southampton all lost over the weekend, meaning Everton can haul themselves clear of the bottom three with a win on Monday. Unfortunately Leicester will be thinking exactly the same, which makes the game at the King Power Stadium absolutely huge.
If Everton lose it is hard to see them avoiding the drop given Brighton and Manchester City await next. They could already be down by the time they play Wolves and Bournemouth in their final two fixtures.
I’m getting nervous just thinking about it, especially as recent performances do not inspire much confidence.
They are without a win in six, losing three of the last four. They conceded nine goals in those three defeats but arguably could have shipped a lot more as the defensive solidity instilled by Sean Dyche in his early weeks in charge completely evaporated.
The absence of Seamus Coleman has hit hard as both Mason Holgate and Ben Godfrey have struggled in his place. Dyche’s loyalty to Michael Keane also needs to be questioned given Everton have conceded an average of two a game since he came back into the side. What does Yerry Mina need to do to earn a recall?
Whatever the team selection urgent improvement is needed if they are to arrest the slide before it is too late - if it is not too late already.
Just seven years after the most famous of title wins, Leicester face the very real prospect of becoming just the second team in the Premier League era to win the league before dropping into the second tier.
The drop-off this season has been extreme and, from the outside, puzzling. The Foxes, FA Cup winners in 2021, finished eighth last season and reached the Europa Conference League semi-finals. They possess immensely talented players such as Youri Tielemans, James Maddison and Harvey Barnes, yet they find themselves 18th in the table.
Brendan Rodgers flirted with the sack for much of the season but was finally dismissed at the start of April. Jesse Marsch was rumoured to be taking over before talks collapsed, with Dean Smith stepping up on a deal until the end of the season.
Smith lost his first game in charge against Manchester City but has picked up four precious points in his last two games after beating Wolves and grabbing a late draw at Leeds. Now just one point and one place separates the two sides, with a win for either lifting them up to 16th.
It is all set up for a gargantuan encounter with Premier League survival on the line.
Everton 0-2 Leicester, 5 November 2022
Everton’s season was well and truly on the slide when Leicester took all three points from Goodison Park thanks to goals at the end of each half from Youri Tielemans and Harvey Barnes.
Seamus Coleman is expected to return to the squad after missing the last three matches with a hamstring injury. He will almost certainly come straight back into the side as well after Ben Godfrey endured yet another chastening 90 minutes against Newcastle.
Mason Holgate is also available after serving a one-game ban for his dismissal at Crystal Palace.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin came through the Newcastle game unscathed despite being withdrawn after 81 minutes so is set to lead the line once more.
Andros Townsend is still a while away from fitness and it now seems he may have played his last game for the club with his contract up at the end of the campaign.
What they said
Everton manager Sean Dyche: “The stakes have been high since I got here. The stakes should be high, by the way. A club like Everton... the stakes should be high. That’s what the players need to remember. They need to be high at this football club.
“[A win at Leicester] creates a different atmosphere. If we go down there, take on the game and win, then it creates a different atmosphere and the belief floods back in very quickly.
“It’s strange how quickly it can turn around.
“The key point is you making it happen, I can’t emphasise that enough. I say it to the players constantly - you make things happen in football.
“Now and again you get a lucky one but even that doesn’t really build belief. The ones that build belief are when you take it on, then deliver and get a result.”
Leicester boss Dean Smith: “All you can focus on is our own performances. We’ve got four points from three games. We’ll be going all out to get a win over Everton and then Fulham. We’ll look at the table after that and see where we’re at.
“You can’t ever take the pressure off. They watch football, they see the scores and the tables. They know. We can make it clear with our plan and what we’re trying to do and how we’re trying to do it. If you do that, they go in calm and relaxed, but with the fire to win a game.”
It really feels like Everton are teetering on the brink. It’s now or never.