Goodison Park club set for a pivotal couple of weeks.
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With the handshakes barely completed following last night’s FA Cup Fifth Round defeat to Reading, David Moyes heaped further bad news onto his team’s already beleaguered fans by confirming that Marouane Fellaini would be out for the remainder of the season. The Belgian midfielder had already been confirmed as missing from the tie after limping out of Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Sunderland prior to half time, but Moyes has now stated that he will have an operation to repair the injured ankle on Monday, and as a result would not play again this year.
This comes as an untimely blow for an Everton side who have until recently been struggling following a below-par first half of the season. The victory over Chelsea in the previous round, which was followed up by a routine win at Sunderland, was seen as the springboard from which the club could propel themselves up the league and, coupled with a good showing in the FA Cup, turn the season around. Cahill was back and regaining fitness following the Asia Cup, Jermaine Beckford was finally showing some goal-scoring ability in the league and Mikael Arteta had been quoted as saying he was beginning to find his form following a difficult second half of 2010.
However last night’s defeat leaves the Merseyside club with only the league to fight for, and the next few weeks are set to determine whether that will entail a push up the league or a struggle to remain in the top flight. The loss of both Fellaini and Cahill, who is now set to miss a further three weeks having failed to fully recover from a foot injury, will only increase the sense of unease around the club, and with key fixtures still remaining they cannot allow themselves to be complacent.
This Saturday’s clash away to Newcastle will give the fans an indication of what the rest of the season holds for them, as the Tyneside club are enjoying a solid first campaign back in the Premier League and are set to provide Everton with a stern test. After this come five fixtures against teams in the bottom half of the table; Birmingham, Fulham, Aston Villa, Wolves and Blackburn. All of these apart from the Wolves game are at Goodison Park, and a couple of defeats in this run could lead to the Toffees finding themselves in a genuine relegation scrap coming into the final weeks of the season. With games against both Manchester teams and Chelsea still to come, this is a situation that Moyes and his team will be desperate to avoid.