20:00 BST, Monday 23rd April, Goodison Park (Liverpool, England) Sky Sports
Everton’s season has fizzled out into a level of mediocrity which few envisioned at the beginning of this season.
Having made a significant investment to break into the stronghold of elite teams at the top of the Premier League, the Toffees spectacularly proved that money can’t always buy instant success.
With Everton returned to the top half of the table, Sam Allardyce will be aiming to push them higher with a first win in four games against his former club.
Newcastle come into this fixture in a near identical position to Everton. Currently trailing the Toffees by a single point but with a game in hand, it’s fair to say Rafael Benitez’s side have arrived here from the opposite direction.
Given little money to invest in his team, Benitez has stuck with his long-term plans for the club which have slowly borne fruit in the North-East this season.
The Magpies have only won one of their previous 13 visits to Goodison Park and failed to score against Everton in each of their last four meetings. However, a run of four consecutive wins will provide a strong belief heading into this game.
Last Time Out
Swansea City 1-1 Everton (Premier League)
Another flat performance from Everton’s forwards was given a sliver-lining by a resilient defensive display as they held the tenacious Swans.
It was the home side who brought all of the early spirit into the game, causing Everton to clear the ball from their goal-line twice during the opening minutes.
It was a worrying return to poor form for Michael Keane in the heart of defence, Jordan Pickford once more this season proving to be the Toffees real hero of the hour.
Morgan Schneiderlin also put in a strong display, partly to cover the inconsistent Idrissa Gueye who largely let the game pass him by.
It was Everton who took the lead on the stroke of half-time, a loose ball ricocheting off Kyle Naughton to give the away side a barely deserved advantage.
The lively Seamus Coleman also saw a shot bounce back off the woodwork after Swansea had leveled the match but it would have been unfair on Swansea to lose and the away fans were under no illusion as to what they had watched unfold before them.
Newcastle United 2-1 Arsenal (Premier League)
The Magpies came from behind to take a deserved win over the Gunners for the first time in 11 meetings.
It had begun to look like a familiar story for the home fans as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fed Alexandre Lacazette to open the scoring in the 14th minute. The goal only seemed to instil more effort from Newcastle.
Ayoze Pérez began the fightback in earnest when he tapped in his third goal in as many games after half an hour. However, his assist for Matt Ritchie’s coolly-taken winner was a majestic flick which highlights the confidence which can come with scoring goals.
Despite having only 30% of possession, Newcastle looked solid in defence and were happy to play on the break. With four shots on target compared to the Gunners three, they also looked the most likely to add more to the scoreboard during the game’s latter stages.
The celebrations by all concerned on Tyneside at the final whistle was a sign of the achievement in not only beating Arsenal but in crossing the 40 point barrier in the league.
Mason Holgate (ankle), Eliaquim Mangala (knee), James McCarthy (leg) and Gylfi Sigurdsson (knee) all remain out of contention for Monday night’s match.
Tom Davies will be pushing for a return to the starting lineup. However, the return to form of Morgan Schneiderlin could mean the English midfielder retains his place on the bench in an unchanged starting lineup from last weekend.
Newcastle United Lineup
Benitez could also adopt an unchanged lineup after naming the same 11 to start each of Newcastle’s previous four games.
Christian Atsu (knock) and Jesús Gámez (ankle) are definitely ruled out otherwise the Magpies will be at full strength for their trip to Merseyside.
Key Battle: Cenk Tosun (Everton) vs Dwight Gayle (Newcastle United)
Averaging only one goal per game over their last seven fixtures, Everton will need to find a way to break through an increasingly resilient Newcastle defence.
Tosun is one of the few players in the team who has come into form over the last two months, taking four goals from his last six matches.
While he’s yet to make an assist from any of his 10 league appearances, Tosun is slowly showing he’s adapting to life in England as the club’s main target-man.
Newcastle have also had their problems in scoring this season. However, they’ve recently hit bit of form in front of goal.
While Pérez has been sweeping up attention lately, mainly due to his three goals and two assists which have come from the last three fixtures, Dwight Gayle is also a player to have rekindled his lost form.
Keeping the now-fit Islam Slimani out of the first team, Gayle may not have scored during the previous six matches but his work-rate has been key to the Magpies success and has created space for his teammates to exploit.
Rebranding the Toffees
With the majority of Everton fans remaining disgruntled with the club’s current direction, it appears a new course is being plotted by the Toffees board.
The appointment of Steve Walsh as Everton’s director of football last summer has failed to bring any tangible results and the PSV Eindhoven technical director, Marcel Brands, is now widely expected to join the club in a similar role.
With a reputation enhanced by spotting talent responsible for bring PSV three of the last four Eredivisie titles in Holland, the club seem determined to implement more of a winning structure behind the scenes.
Whether this includes replacing a manager who suffered the ignominy of a fans vote suggesting the club needs a new boss, remains to be seen.
100 not out
With news that Arsene Wenger would be leaving Arsenal following soon after the Magpies beat his team last weekend, Benitez could soon become the 6th longest-serving manager in the Premier League.
The match against Everton will be the Spanish manager’s 100th game in charge since his appointment in March 2016, a move which surprised the footballing world only two months after his sacking by Real Madrid.
With a possibility of picking up his 49th win at Newcastle, Benitez has completely transformed the club’s outlook during this time.
The victory over Arsenal in their last game epitomised exactly why Benitez has put so much faith into a disciplined approach.
Having very much restored some of his tarnished reputation over the last two years, Benitez has not only shown his ability to perform above expectations, he’s shown it’s possible to do so with a very clear vision and some long-term planning.
Prediction: Everton 1-1 Newcastle United
The race for eighth position will carry more incentive for the visitors. However, Everton’s home form has been the crutch for much of their season.
Having won all but one of their home matches against team’s currently below Burnley, the Toffees might not be able to continue this trend but Newcastle could see their four-match-winning streak broken on Merseyside.