The Toffees’ scheduled 13-day break was stunted by their third round replay against Crystal Palace, with Andre Gomes’ brilliant free-kick deciding the game on a chilly night in L4 – a welcome first win in seven games.
Still, it is hoped the eventual 10-day rest will give the squad the chance to recover from knocks and niggles picked up during the hectic Christmas period, though news of a second injury for Abdoulaye Doucoure is a huge concern.
Doucoure feels like a keystone in Sean Dyche’s formation and the team noticeably struggles in his absence, with the Palace win the only victory since he picked up his first injury at Burnley last month.
It is just another challenge to be overcome for Dyche, who is approaching the 12-month anniversary of his appointment of Toffees boss.
It has been a whirlwind year with the club rarely out of crisis mode, but the genuine progress made on the pitch, despite all the carnage of it, gives us hope for the future.
Luton’s shock win at Goodison Park in October looked to be an exceptional rather than the rule, with the Hatters tipped to go straight back down after their surprise promotion last season.
But there are signs in recent weeks at Rob Edwards’ side have the resilience to get consistent results and give themselves a fighting chance of staying up.
Their cause is of course helped by Everton’s 10-point deduction and a similar punishment for Nottingham Forest will further aid their cause. But they return to Goodison having lost just one of their last six games in all competitions.
Edwards showed wonderful leadership in the aftermath of Tom Lockyer’s on-pitch collapse last month. Thankfully Lockyer is on the mend and the incident seems to have brought the club closer together.
The FA Cup is likely to be lower on their priority list but Everton have shown in the past how a cup run can galvanise their league form.
This is not going to be easy.
Everton 1-2 Luton, 30 September 2023
After losing four of their first five games, Luton secured their first Premier League win of the season against Everton in September. Tom Lockyer and Carlton Morris put the Hatters 2-0 up in the first half, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s reply before the break not enough for the Blues.
As mention, Everton will be without Abdoulaye Doucoure because of a hamstring injury, with no timetable put on his recovery. Andre Gomes is also sidelined with a calf problem, leaving Dyche with some thinking to do about his midfield.
Seamus Coleman is also out with a hamstring issue suffered against Aston Villa. Ashley Young is close to a return but this game is likely to have come to soon.
Dele Alli has had surgery on a groin injury so will be out for the foreseeable future.
What they said
Everton manager Sean Dyche: “They’re doing well and they’re working hard. They’ve used the underdog spirit, and I’ve been down that road myself many years ago when Burnley first got into the Premier League. You build a mentality. It’s still a very long season ahead, of course, but they’re going very well. They’re up for everything and they keep demanding from themselves.
“We’ve created a mentality here that’s strong in the sense that we take no one for granted; we take no one lightly. All of the information will be given to the players. All of the workload that we can get into them will be the same, whoever we’re playing, to try to win a game.”
Luton boss Rob Edwards: “The league is of course the most important but this game is the next game and we will prepare right because we want to win and go as far as we can.
“I’m aware we’ve got an important game a few days later but we’ve got things in place – our focus is to win the game knowing we’ve got two extremely difficult games coming up in the Premier League.
“The FA Cup is an amazing competition so we’re taking it very, very seriously. For us, we want to continue building our performances and the feelgood factor because we’ve been in good form. We’re really looking forward to it; Everton’s a brilliant football club, it’s a great stadium so the motivation is there for us.”
Everton are still scrabbling to rediscover their form so I do not expect a particularly fluid performance. Though the league remains the priority I am desperate for a cup run, so any sort of victory will do for me.