It just about sums up life as an Everton supporter than the Toffees finally hit their stride in 2013 against Manchester City and then have to wait two weeks to build on the momentum because of the international break.
Perhaps some downtime away from the club is what’s needed, a change being as good as a rest, but if Everton’s internationals come back to Merseyside with niggling injuries or on the back of bad times with their countries, it would just compound matters further. Emotions though were ramped up to a peak against City and living up to those levels seven days later, at Goodison Park again, might have proved difficult. The two-week break between beating the champions and welcoming Stoke City to Goodison should allow for those heights to be approached again.
A large part of Everton’s success against City was down to the high tempo the players maintained, with more than once packs of three or four blue shirts hounding the deep red of the visitors. It is that sort of pressing that will be needed against Stoke and more often than not in the matches remaining this season, a big ask for a small squad but if European football is to be obtained, something they have got to be capable of.
With away games at Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea to come before the season’s end, home matches – especially against middle-ranking teams like Stoke – are vital. Three points here eases the need for an against-the-odds away win at one of the teams higher placed than Everton.
With Queens Park Rangers, Fulham and West Ham to visit Goodison before the end of the season, results at home will be more crucial than ever. Maximum points from those games should deliver a top six spot at least, depending how things go on the road.
To get into the Champions League would likely require a win from one of the tough away trips upcoming – the fans’ choice would surely be Anfield, for so many reasons. But an end to season that sees more wins than defeats would be the perfect way to capitalise on the momentum generated by beating City and, potentially, set up the club for a good summer – if the identity of the manager is known quickly, that is.
The idea of speaking so positively about Everton’s prospects would have been ridiculous after the Wigan defeat, the cup exit that brought doom and gloom over the club in a way not seen in years. Such has been the impact of beating City – and doing so as emphatically as they did – and the international break has allowed that good feeling to bubble away under the surface, not overspill, nor be decimated by a poor showing against the Potters as the more cynical football fan might expect.
With time to reflect the magnitude of the City performance doesn’t lessen, though, and with everyone associated with the club now pulling on the same side it could prove the springboard for what’s left of the campaign.
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