Everton’s hard work in their last two outings could go to waste if they don’t build on it when they travel to St. James’ Park to face Newcastle.
After losing three games on the bounce, the Toffees seem to have got their act together on the pitch.
An emphatic 3-0 win against Cardiff was followed up by a goalless draw in the Merseyside derby, the first time since November the Blues have kept back-to-back clean sheets in the league.
This will come as a must win for the hosts, with the threat of relegation still looming.
The Magpies are currently 14th in the league, six points above Cardiff who are occupying the third and final place in the drop-zone.
So Rafa Benitez will know a win on Saturday will almost guarantee another season in England’s top flight with eight games left to play.
After winning two games on the bounce, Newcastle were brought back to earth at the weekend when West Ham ran out 2-0 winners at the London Stadium thanks to goals from Declan Rice and Mark Noble.
But the North East club are strong at home so the Toffees will have a hard task on hand if they are to pick up just their third away victory of the season.
Newcastle have won their last three games at St. James’ Park, beating Burnley, Huddersfield and most impressively, reigning Champions Manchester City.
Newcastle boast a pretty decent defensive record this campaign, Martin Dubravka has kept nine clean sheets and shipped just 36 goals in 29 games — only five clubs in the Premier League have conceded fewer.
The Blues have gone six games without tasting defeat against this weekend’s opponents, a run stretching back to 2014 when Newcastle beat a Roberto Martinez led Everton side 3-2.
Since then, Everton have won five and drew one of the six meetings between the clubs, with the visitors only conceding one goal in that time — during December’s 1-1 stalemate at Goodison.
Everton start the day in 10th but a win could see them go above West Ham into ninth if the Hammers fail to beat Cardiff.
If Salomon Rondon starts, Everton’s defence will come in for a tough afternoon.
The big Venezuelan scored in the Goodison draw earlier this season and his height and physical presence will no doubt cause the Blues’ backline problems despite their new found form.
He is the Magpies’ top scorer this season, the 29-year-old has contributed to 12 goals in 23 appearances – scoring eight and assisting four – and Benitez will surely look to make his loan move permanent this summer.
Silva will have a midfield dilemma on his hands when it comes to team selection after the re-emergence of Morgan Schneiderlin. Andre Gomes could be set to start a third successive game on the bench.
The hosts will be without influential midfielder Sean Longstaff after a season ending injury last week — the 21-year-old had become a mainstay in the middle of the park since January and could prove to be a massive miss for Newcastle. Rob Elliot and Ciaran Clark will also miss out.
Man in the middle
Lee Mason will be in charge of the whistle for this one, this will be the fourth time he has refereed an Everton fixture this term but just his second Newcastle clash.
In 25 games he has shown 74 yellow cards and two reds.