Everton must carry Brighton momentum into remaining three matches

Everton (Photo by Joe Prior/Visionhaus via Getty Images)
Everton (Photo by Joe Prior/Visionhaus via Getty Images) /

On Monday night Everton shocked everyone in the football world with a stunning 5-1 win at Brighton. Now they must continue that form with three games to go.

Next up though comes a hugely challenging clash with Premier League leaders and treble-chasing Manchester City at Goodison Park.

This is a match that almost no one would think Everton can win. Indeed, I would say that if there is one home game each season which seems a certain defeat, it is this one.

City are a superb footballing machine high in confidence as always and with an almost ludicrously lethal centre-forward in Erling Haaland.

And, unlike the last two opponents to close out the Toffees season, Wolves and Bournemouth, City still have a lot to play for and will be determined to pick up three points as they attempt to retain their title.

Furthermore, the Blues have a terrible recent recond at home against these opponents with their last win being a 4-0 drubbing of Pep Guardiola’s then embryonic side in January 2017.

There was a tight game last season at Goodison which was lost 1-0 but where the Toffees were denied a bang on penalty that might have forced a draw.

However, after this week’s incredible performance and result, might another massive upset just be possible?

In truth, it seems very unlikely, despite the tremendous efforts that Everton showed at the Amex Stadium a few days ago.

Reproducing that level of almost faultless excellence from one to eleven is asking an awful lot from a group of players who have very rarely delivered anything like it recently.

As I speculated before the Brighton game, occasionally this team have produced something  unexpectedly good against much better opponents, but it doesn’t last. So was it just a one off?

If not there is though now the potential for real momentum behind Everton’s campaign to avoid the drop, something that looked very unlikely just a week or so ago.

Then, the Blues’ had just been on the wrong end of their own home drubbing as Newcastle United scored four at the Grand Old Lady.

After that result I thought it was basically all over and relegation looked almost certain. Well, maybe I was mistaken.

At any rate it seems critical for Everton to try and find a way to sustain the intensity of their overall performance on Monday evening.

In particular, the level of attacking creativity and the clinical nature of their finishing against the Seagulls.

The Toffees created a huge number of chances compared to so many other matches recently, especially away from home, scored five times and could have had two or three more at least.

As I have previously mentioned, there have been signs of improved attacking productivity from this side for a while now, particuarly on their travels.

Since Sean Dyche took over as manager the Blues have been more of a consistent threat in attack and that has led to an increased number of goals scored, although not enough to gain the points needed to secure top flight status yet.

Now, the return of Dominic Calvert-Lewin to fitness and form has transformed the goal-scoring potential of this team.

While he didn’t score at the Amex, Calvert-Lewin produced a top quality all-round display leading the line.

His pace, strength and clever movement gives Everton a much improved edge up front. An example is the first goal scored against Brighton.

Calvert-Lewin took a quick pass, controlled the ball, turned superbly and using his pace and a clever Cruyff-like flick, got away from his markers before threading a well-weighted pass to Abdoulaye Doucoure to score.

That goal couldn’t have been scored without his presence and abilities.

And his return now also means that opposing defenders have a genuine top class striker to deal with, rather than the makeshift forwards that have played for the Blues since the start of the season.

Going into Sunday’s match, I imagine Dyche will stick to the same eleven he selected to face the Seagulls.

In particular, he must continue with Yerry Mina and Nathan Patterson in central defence and at right-back respectively.

Both excelled as I thought they would after finally returning to the team and significantly strengthened the defence. Mina’s strength, aggresion and ability to get under a strikers’ skin will be especially important on Sunday.

Can Everton possibly pull off another completely unexpected result this weekend? It does seem unlikely as while Brighton are a very good side, City represent another step-up in quality.

The visitors do have the distractions of two other trophy hunts with an FA Cup final coming up and the Champions League semi second leg next week. But, they have enough strength in depth and experience to handle all that.

Of course, having got the three points on Monday and given other results last weekend, to some extent the Toffees don’t need to be as concerned about the result as they might have been.

After all, no one has had any expectations of the team getting anything from this fixture. And, even after Monday, that hasn’t really changed.

Although having said that, the Toffees did manage a creditable and unexpected 1-1 draw at the Etihad earlier in the season.

Defeat wouldn’t necessarily be fatal either, even if some of the other clubs around them won –  although all their rivals have difficult fixtures – because Everton have two very winnable games to come and have showed they can deliver what is needed to secure the points required.

So, while I’m not expecting a repeat by any means and it seems highly probable the Blues will be beaten, hopefully they can at least sustain to a considerable extent the defensive solidity and attacking creativity and threat they showed. A draw would be an excellent result.

Which Everton will turn up on Sunday, Monday’s team or the side that limply slumped to defeat against Newcastle United?

Assuming Everton cannot replicate Monday’s outcome, maintaining focus and playing with that intensity and confidence, will be crucial to getting the points needed in the remaining games.

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