January 21st 2020 was a night that epitomised Steve Bruce’s Newcastle United, a defender coming up clutch when the team needed it most, as the Magpies stole a point at the death.
Florian Lejeune was the hero that night, as the Frenchman bagged a brace against Everton at Goodison Park. Much to many a Geordie’s delight there was an added bonus of seeing ex-Sunderland keeper Jordan Pickford with his head buried in his hands.
But things have changed both on and off the pitch since last winter, for example the aforementioned Lejeune isn’t even a Newcastle United player. Instead he’s currently playing alongside ex-Toon forward Joselu at Alaves in La Liga.
In the 9 months since January’s fixture, and heading into this Sunday’s match, let’s take a look at the two sides, who have each undergone several changes and transformations in what has been a tumultuous time for the entire sport.
The appointment of Steve Bruce to replace the China-bound Rafa Benitez was a controversial one to say the least.
Universally considered by fans as a downgrade, but a reliable option according to seemingly every pundit Sky and the BBC have to offer, Bruce’s continuing spell became even more reviled and anger inducing once Carlo Ancelotti arrived at Goodison Park.
Why can’t we have a manager from the 2005 Champions League final back when they can have one instead?
It may have been the Merseyside club that found themselves to be the talk of the town in this past Summer’s transfer window, but the Tyneside outfit too made strides in creating some squad depth for a team that was decimated by injuries at key moments of the 19/20 season.
Joelinton is no longer the sole striker, as the ever impressive Callum Wilson has made his presence known in black and white.
Jamal Lewis and Allan Saint-Maximin make up a fearsome left flank for any team in the league to face, particularly in comparison to the Matt Ritchie/Christian Atsu combo that Bruce chose to start in that 2-2 draw.
One has to remember that though money is the primary incentive in deciding where players want to transfer to, playing under a certain manager comes a close 2nd.
Playing for Carlo Ancelotti, multi time Champions League winning manager, is a far more attractive offer than the ex-Manchester United defender at Newcastle’s helm.
There’s a clear reason one club is making deals with Real Madrid and Napoli, and the other is relying on free transfers from Burnley and Bournemouth.
Whilst Everton will go into this weekend’s clash without James Rodriguez (injury), Richarlison (suspension) or Lucas Digne (suspension), their likely starting XI is still an immense upgrade on the team that drew 2-2 earlier this year.
Ex Napoli midfielder Allan and french CDM Abdoulaye Doucoure have more than strengthened the midfield spots once occupied by Morgan Schneiderlin and Fabian Delph.
With Icelandic talisman Gylfi Sigurdsson likely to return to fill Rodriguez’s role, Everton seem a much more imposing challenge than they were all those months ago for Newcastle.
Current Season Performances
It’s difficult to crack the top 6, but since Ancelotti’s appointment as Everton boss, the Toffees have impressively outshone almost everyone else in the league.
Less than a handful of players have scored more Premier League goals this calendar year than Dominic Calvert Lewin, as Ancelotti has clearly begun to mould the Englishman into his new Inzaghi or Drogba-esque striker.
Everton have begun the new season in fine form of course, with 13 points from their first possible 18, with so many fans pointing to the fact that the last time Everton were top of a league table by the end of September, they went on to win that title.
If there was ever an Everton side to replicate David Moyes’ past monumental efforts and cement the Toffees as a top 4 PL side, based purely off the recent squad and form alone, then it’s Carlo Ancelotti’s current Everton side.
Newcastle, much like last season however, have been dangerously inconsistent in their performances.
From dominant wins over West Ham and Burnley to disgraceful defeats against Brighton and Man Utd, Newcastle already find themselves mired in midtable.
European Super League
One has to look at the impending arrival of the European Super League, and despite being universally panned by football fans, as presenting clubs like Everton and Newcastle an exciting new opportunity: An actual chance to be declared champions of England once again.
By removing the top 6 from the running, clubs like Everton, Leicester, Wolves, Leeds, and Newcastle may never have a better chance of further etching their names in footballing history.
But in 2020, a sad reality must dawn upon many a Newcastle fan: would any sane football fan think they can escape midtable should the top 6 all depart?
Whilst Everton, Wolves, Leicester, and Leeds are making big steps, it could be argued that despite all the new transfers and surprise marquee wins, Newcastle United have regressed in comparison to Everton.
They are two clubs which shared ambitions last season, yet now one side is aiming substantially higher than the other.
Sunday’s game must be a statement of intent for both teams: for Newcastle, it’s to tell the rest of the league they are no easy game, and will not settle for midtable.
Whilst in contrary, Everton will look to prove their doubters wrong and retain their Champions League spot for the foreseeable future.
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