More will be known with the benefit of hindsight. The outcome of Liverpool’s next league game, at home to Chelsea on Tuesday, will do much to determine if the draw at Molineux can be looked upon as a positive or a negative. If the Reds win and move within a point of Everton, the draw will be regarded as a disappointment. If Liverpool lose and Everton are confirmed as finishing above their eternal rivals without even playing the final game of the season then the draw will be regarded as a decent result. At this stage of the season so much for so many rests on the results of other teams and Everton are no exception in their own parochial battle for seventh.
So what chance a Chelsea win? Ordinarily the home side would be favourites but this has not been an ordinary home campaign for Liverpool. Kenny Dalglish’s side have scored the second-fewest home goals of any side in the top half, 20 – West Bromwich Albion have recorded one less yet have won a game more, six to Liverpool’s five. That in itself is an indictment of Liverpool’s home form and enough to suggest Chelsea are capable of doing Everton a favour but that does not take into account where Chelsea’s focus now lies. Having won the FA Cup against Liverpool on Saturday and unable to crack the top four of the league, Chelsea’s collective mind is likely to be closer to Munich than Merseyside, on the Champions League final and not their second-to-last league game.
On the balance of probabilities Everton will need to win their final game of the season at home to Newcastle United. Put so plainly it sounds so simple. It was beyond Everton to do exactly that last season, however, when Hatem Ben Arfa scored a stunning goal in a 1-0 Newcastle win, a game that saw Everton blunder about the field in their all-too-common pre-Christmas manner. But now the year has turned Everton are an altogether more dangerous prospect, particularly at home where David Moyes’ men have plundered 10 goals in three games.
Newcastle, though, are one of the revelations of the Premier League this season and may not be daunted by the final hurdle in front of them, particularly not with the chance of Champions League football remaining on offer. If results go their way Newcastle could still finish third and go straight into the Champions League group stage, something Everton would advise if at all possible after their aborted entry into the competition in 2005. A return to Goodison Park may bring a return to goal scoring but first, more attention than usual will be paid to events at Anfield on Tuesday evening.