If there was ever a game to stamp our authority and show everyone that we’re not about to get dragged back into this relegation battle, it’s this one.
Sunday’s defeat to Chelsea was a bitter pill to swallow and tough to accept. We matched them in all departments, defended superbly, were brave in the press and positive in our approach…only to be let down by two VAR errors.
The injustice will only add fire to our bellies heading into this one, with the performance itself another huge positive which further highlights just how far we’ve come under Eddie Howe.
Many believe we are too good to go down and look anything but a side at risk of relegation, so this one’s interestingly poised against an Everton who stink of a team in deep trouble.
We outplayed them at St James’ Park last month in a 3-1 win and will be hoping to inflict more misery on the Blue half of Merseyside on Thursday night, knowing another victory would leave Frank Lampard’s side on the brink of the bottom three ahead of a tough run of fixtures.
The atmosphere at Goodison will be volatile and on a knife edge. If we allow them to settle, build confidence or get ahead, this could be the moment that kickstarts their push towards survival. But start fast, score early or silence the crowd and it could soon become toxic and a dream away day for the travelling Toon Army.
Joe Willock is fit again after recovering from illness, but Jonjo Shelvey (unwell) and Joelinton (groin) are both major doubts.
Howe also has a decision to make at right-back – will he start Manquillo or Krafth – while Allan Saint-Maximin and Ryan Fraser are in contention to return to the starting 11.
Elsewhere, Kieran Trippier (foot), Callum Wilson (calf) and Federico Fernanadez (side strain) are expected to miss out once again, despite the latter returning to training on Wednesday.
As for Everton, Dominic Calvert-Lewin (ill) is facing a late fitness test, while Jonjoe Kenny (suspended), Yerry Mina (quadriceps), Fabian Delph (thigh) and Tom Davies (hamstring) will all be missing.
Predicted line ups
(4-3-3): Dubravka – Krafth, Schar, Burn, Targett – Willock, Guimaraes, Longstaff – Fraser, Wood, Saint-Maximin.
Martin Dubravka – Had nothing to do for 77 minutes on Sunday and was only beaten by one moment of quality. Hopefully he can go one better and collect another clean sheet here.
Emil Krafth – Manquillo is, for me, our best RB when Trippier is out and did well as part of a back five at Chelsea. However, if Howe reverts back to a four-man defence on Thursday, I can see Krafth coming back in on the basis he did little wrong during our unbeaten run.
Fabian Schar – Undroppable at present and was one of our best players at Stamford Bridge, being a presence in both boxes.
Dan Burn – Looked gutted to concede late at Chelsea, so will have the bit between his teeth here. Could be key up against Calvert-Lewin if the big striker passes a late fitness test.
Matt Targett – He put in another assured display at left-back last weekend and will have his hands full if Everton livewire Anthony Gordon continues down their right-hand side.
Joe Willock – Has been passed fit after recovering from illness, so I can see Howe bringing him back in as part of a midfield three. His energy, late runs into the box and ability to carry the ball into the final third could be key.
Bruno Guimaraes – Impressed at Chelsea in his second start for the club, showing his quality in possession and ability off the ball; making more tackles than any other NUFC player. If Joelinton and Shelvey miss out, we’ll need more of the same.
Sean Longstaff – Howe thought he was “excellent” on his return to the side and because of that I can’t see him taking a risk with Joelinton or starting a half-fit Shelvey who hasn’t trained since he was ill.
Ryan Fraser – Was rested at Chelsea and will almost certainly come back in for this one. His energy, pressing and creativity could be key against an edgy Everton.
Allan Saint-Maximin – I thought he didn’t offer enough during his cameo on Sunday, as we got worse after he came on, however you can’t not start your most devastating attacker against a defence that looks there for the taking! If he’s still not 100% fit, Murphy could start, but I think Howe will look to get at them from the off.
Chris Wood – Had a few too many sloppy moments on the ball last time out, but he makes up for that with his hard work, constant pressing and aerial dominance; all of which could come in handy against a Blues side who are weak in the air and poor at playing out from the back.
Predicted Everton XI (4-3-3): Pickford – Coleman, Keane, Holgate, Godfrey – Doucoure, Allan, Van de beek – Gordon, Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison.
The home side haven’t scored a Premier League goal in over a month, losing their last three games by an aggregate score of 8-0. They look lost, lack identity and can’t defend for toffee.
Meanwhile, we were unbeaten in nine prior to Sunday’s robbery at Chelsea and will be out to prove a point in this one, arriving with higher levels of confidence and belief in what is being dubbed a ‘must-win’ game for the hosts.
Because of all the above, I am confident we’ll leave Goodison with a big away victory.
Prediction: Everton 1-2 Newcastle
HOWAY THE LADS!