Everton captain Phil Jagielka insists his side cannot panic despite their lack of momentum in the Premier League as they prepare to visit Manchester City on Wednesday.
While City are riding high in third and just three points adrift of leaders Arsenal, Everton are 11th having won only six league games this season and just once in their past seven top-flight fixtures.
The Toffees proved they can mix it with the best by beating City 2-1 in their League Cup semi-final first leg last Wednesday but recent league history is on the side of the hosts, who have won four and drawn one of their last five against Roberto Martinez’s side.
Everton are hopeful that the Premier League’s joint-top goalscorer Romelu Lukaku – who is on fine form having scored 10 goals and assisted three more in his last 10 games – can overcome an ankle knock in order to play against Manuel Pellegrini’s side and help to provide their league form with a much-needed boost.
And Jagielka, who made his comeback after two months out with a knee injury in Saturday’s FA Cup win over Dagenham and Redbridge, called for calm ahead of a key week in which Everton play City and Chelsea.
“It has been difficult but it is not just down to the defenders,” said the 33-year-old. “Some of the goals we conceded could have been stopped at source so it is frustrating.
“The actual performances we have been putting in have been pretty good but anything that could go wrong went wrong.
“It has been a test of character. We have a lot of young lads, they are lads that have not been here a long time and it is all part of their character growing at such a great club.
“There is no panic button being pressed. There are a few things that need working on, we need to iron them little things out now and have a progressive second half of the season.”
Pellegrini, meanwhile, is aware that City are entering a potentially decisive period of their campaign as they continue to battle on four fronts.
“It is always our aim at this club to be involved in all four competitions and January is a key month not only for the Premier League, but also for both domestic cups,” he said.
“We have the second leg of the Capital One semi-final, we must try to continue in the next round of the FA Cup and in the Premier League it is important for us to close the gap on the two teams above us now because in February we start again in the Champions League.
“We have two home games in the Premier League, against Everton and Crystal Palace, and we must focus on those.”
City will assess the fitness of Eliaquim Mangala (hamstring) and Wilfried Bony (calf), while captain Vincent Kompany (calf) is still out along with long-term absentee Samir Nasri (hamstring).
As well as Lukaku, Everton have a number of players whose injury status is uncertain, including Tom Cleverley, Steven Naismith (both ankle) and Ramiro Funes Mori (head). Seamus Coleman (ankle) and James McCarthy (groin) remain unavailable.
Key Opta stats:
– Everton have won 17 Premier League games against Manchester City, only against West Ham have they won more often (22 wins, also 17 wins versus Newcastle).
– Yaya Toure has had a hand in six goals (three goals, three assists) in eight Premier League appearances versus Everton.
– Romelu Lukaku is Everton’s top scoring player in the Premier League since the start of 2014-15 with 25 goals; the only player to have reached double figures for the Toffees in this period (Naismith the next best with nine goals).
– After having a hand in seven goals in his first five Premier League appearances this season (one goal, six assists), David Silva has been involved in just one goal (no goals, one assist) in his last seven games in the competition.
– Thirteen different players have scored a Premier League goal for Manchester City this season (excl. own goals); a wider spread than any other team.
– Everton have scored a Premier League-low tally (3) and proportion (8.3%) of goals from set-pieces so far this season.
– The Etihad Stadium has seen six goals scored in the opening 15 minutes of Premier League games this season; more than any other ground.