Everton face a tough task on Monday evening when they take on high-flying Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium as the battle against the drop continues.
This is a very difficult match against an in-form side who have enjoyed an excellent season and are still in the hunt for European football.
With all due respect to the Seagulls, it comes to something when the South Coast club are so much better and more competitive a team than Everton.
For most of my life it’s very much been the other way round with Brighton being a classic sort of relatively small, up and down club who had struggled to make a consistent impact.
The Seagulls gained promotion to the old first division in the early eighties and reached the FA Cup final in 1983 (almost beating Manchester United) before being relegated the same season and then eventually returning to the Premier League recently.
Now though they are very much a club going places, while the Blues’ are caught in a potential death spiral of perpetual failure and underachievement both on and off the pitch and relegation from the top flight is very possible for the first time since 1951.
Well now, the Toffees’ face a team that thumped them at Goodison Park in January as the Frank Lampard regime limped towards it’s inevitable conclusion.
His replacement Sean Dyche has just gone through a similarly chastening 4-1 defeat at home to Newcastle United before last week’s 2-2 draw at Leicester City.
That failure to take all three points at the Kingpower Stadium, despite having enough chances to do so, means that Everton’s fate is more or less now outside their control.
Even if they were to find another seven points (probably the minimum required to guaratee safety) it might still not be enough if other teams also gain significant points in the last few weeks.
That does though look unlikely with Leeds United, Nottingham Forest and particularly Leicester all having challenging run-ins to the season end.
Leeds play Champions League chasing Newcastle, one of the in-form teams in the league, then West Ham (still not techincally safe) and finally Spurs who could also still have plenty to play for.
The Foxes have Fulham, then Liverpool, Newcastle and West Ham as well and Forest play both Chelsea and title-chasing Arsenal in their final four games.
Meanwhile, the Blues’ have, after Brighton, a daunting home game against Manchester City and then two absolutely huge fixtures: Wolves away and Bournemouth at home to finish the season.
So far, results this weekend have been kind to Everton. As expected Leeds lost at City although only by a single goal rather than the four or five perhaps some had expected.
That doesn’t help the Toffees’ in terms of goal-difference with both clubs now equal on minus 25, something which may prove pivitol in deciding who does eventually go down.
Wolves also won a Midlands derby against Aston Villa, removing any lingering threat of relegation from them so they might be in that summer holiday-mindset when they host the Blues’ in a few weeks time.
As for Monday’s match, in some ways it is a sort of free hit for Everton with most people focused on those games at Wolves and then the Cherries on the last day of the season.
Given their respective positions and the Toffees’ chronic inability to lack win away games, few would expect the visitors to come away with all three points.
So, as the Blues’ desperately need wins rather than another draw on their travels, why not try to upset the form book?
I’m not saying go all out and throw caution to the wind of course, but perhaps a more attacking approach might just be unexpected and pay off.
I have suggested Dyche try a tweaked formation, something akin to a 3-5-2 system, which would give some added flexibility and enable him to play someone up front alongside Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
However, given this manager that is unlikely to happen and he will almost certainly look to be tight and try and secure another point on the road.
While the odds against it seem pretty long, it is just like this group of players to turn in the odd good performance when totally unexpected and somehow come up with a result out-of-the-blue against superior opposition.
This they did at Manchester City earlier in the campaign and then against Arsenal in Dyche’s first game in charge.
That seems to be my more optimistic side getting the better of me. In truth, such a result appears to be a very forlorn longshot.