Premier League top-four hopefuls Newcastle United head to Goodison Park to take on relegation-battling Everton on Thursday.
Depressed by a shocking ten-point deduction, the Toffees slumped to a disastrous 3-0 home defeat to Manchester United in their last home league outing.
However, Sean Dyche’s side recovered quickly as Dwight McNeil’s phenomenal half-volley inspired them to a gutsy 1-0 win at Nottingham Forest at the weekend.
Before being severely punished for breaching Financial Fair Play rules, the perennial Merseyside strugglers were on the verge of avoiding another season-long fight against relegation.
Everton soared five points clear of the drop zone before the league’s sentence plunged them straight back to the danger zone, though they’re only two points adrift of safety.
In stark contrast to the home side’s justified fears over their top-flight status, Newcastle’s bid to replicate last season’s success and secure Champions League qualification is firmly back on track.
Only three points separate the high-flying visitors from fourth-placed Aston Villa at the start of this round following back-to-back league victories.
Anthony Gordon’s second-half winner propelled the Magpies to a well-deserved 1-0 home win against Man Utd last weekend, bookending a three-game unbeaten run in all competitions (W2, D1).
While it looks innocuous, it’s, in fact, impressive, considering they battered Chelsea 4-1 and held Paris Saint-Germain to a 1-1 draw, affirming their credentials as a new European superpower.
While only Tottenham Hotspur (15) have amassed more points on the road than Everton (13) this season, Dyche’s men have unexpectedly faltered at Goodison.
Except for a 3-0 demolition of bottom-half rivals Bournemouth in early October, the Toffees have gone winless in their remaining five home league games (D1, L4).
Defeats to Luton Town and Wolverhampton Wanderers, amongst others, have contributed to the division’s second-worst home record, with only newcomers Burnely doing worse on home turf than Everton this term.
Stretching back to the tail-end of the 2022/23 season, the Merseysiders have only won once in their last 12 league matches at home (D2, L8), a run that includes a 4-1 thumping to none other than Newcastle.
Inspiring the Magpies to two consecutive league wins at Goodison would fire manager Eddie Howe into the club folklore, with the Toon Army last achieving that feat in 1960.
But despite their recent successes, the visitors take this trip amid a rotten patch away from home, having picked up just one win on their last eight Premier League travels (D4, L3).
While Newcastle’s travel sickness threatens to undermine their quest to post three consecutive league wins for the first time since September, there’s a silver lining.
Their only top-flight triumph on the road this season came against a side stuck in the relegation zone at the start of the season, with Howe’s team humbling Sheffield United 8-0 over two months ago.
Long-term Everton absentees Andre Gomes and Dele Alli have returned to training but are unlikely to make the matchday squad, while Amadou Onana and Dominic Calver-Lewin are doubts.
Dyche will probably turn to summer signing Beto to lead the lead, even though the ex-Udinese striker failed to impress at the City Ground.
On the other hand, the injury situation at Newcastle remains complicated.
Dan Burn, Matt Targett, Javier Manquillo, Sven Botman, Elliot Anderson, Jacob Murphy, Sean Longstaff and Joe Willock have welcomed first-choice goalkeeper Nick Pope to the treatment room.
Martin Dubravka should take the Englishman’s place between the sticks. Meanwhile, Sandro Tonali won’t return from suspension until August 2024.
Everton potential starting line-up:
(4-4-1-1): Pickford; Young, Tarkowski, Branthwaite, Mykolenko; Harrison, Garner, Gueye, McNeil; Doucoure; Beto.
Newcastle United potential starting line-up:
(4-3-3): Dubravka; Trippier, Lascelles, Schar, Livramento; Miley, Guimaraes, Joelinton; Almiron, Isak, Gordon.
We Say: Everton 1-1 Newcastle United
Once a fortress, Goodison has become a happy hunting ground for visiting sides this season, casting doubt on Everton’s hopes of fending off injury-hit Newcastle.
But Dyche knows in-depth about frustrating pre-match favourites with his defensive-minded football and time-wasting strategies, leading us to believe the Toffees could take a point here.
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