Roberto Martinez reckons Everton must produce their best to claim all three points in Saturday evening’s Premier League trip to Newcastle.
The Magpies go into the 5.30pm kick-off on a high, following an unbeaten three-game run which has secured seven points and a climb to 17th place in the table, having taken just 10 points from the first 14 matches.
Goodison boss Martinez said: “I think you’ve seen a completely different chapter in their season. If you look at their last three games, they have taken seven points out the nine possible from very challenging fixtures.
“Their team is in a very good moment of form, so it shows how small the margins are in the league this season between victory and defeat.
“We are going to face a Newcastle side whose stats reflect that they are in the best moment of their season.
“It always takes time to get a new project underway,. Steve McClaren has got enough experience and know-how to see what is needed.”
Conceding goals has been Everton’s main Achilles heel this season, so captain Phil Jagielka’s return from two months out with a knee injury cannot come soon enough.
Martinez is confident that the England defender, along with midfielders James McCarthy and Steven Pienaar and wide man Bryan Oviedo, will feature at some point over the next three weeks.
He said: “It’s a really busy period for us, but it’s great news to have those four players in a position that they’ve already started to work with the group and we feel very confident that, in one way or another, they’ll be involved in any of those seven games.”
At the other end of the pitch, Everton have been performing very well, not least Romelu Lukaku, who can equal an Everton record set by Dixie Dean in 1927 if he scores in a ninth consecutive game against Newcastle.
“You’re talking about footballers that are Everton giants,” said Martinez. “To have Romelu’s name around those is an incredible achievement.”
Meanwhile, Newcastle keeper Rob Elliot goes into the game having “exceeded expectations”, filling in for the injured Tim Krul.
Boss McClaren says the Tynesiders will look “very closely” at the goalkeeping situation in the summer after hailing Elliot’s impact on and off the pitch.
The 29-year-old has impressed since Krul’s season-ending cruciate knee ligament injury, despite battling the pain of a thigh problem. Asked whether Elliot has shown he could have a long-term future oin Tyneside, McClaren said: “I think the goalkeeping situation is definitely one we’re looking very closely at.
“We don’t have to decide now, but coming up, and certainly by the summer, it will be a crucial one.”
On Elliot’s impressive form, McClaren added: “Exceeded expectations, yes.
“He’d been injured for a few months at the start of the season, so we’d not really seen him, but he’s been excellent and gained us points, he’s vocal and good in the dressing room as well.
“We don’t like to mention it much, but we’ve got four or five long-term injuries, which we could have done without.
“I think there’s eight on the treatment table at the moment and could be nine with Papiss [Cisse] so we’ve had our problems with injury.
“People have to step in and be ready, goalkeepers, outfield players, and Robbie has been ready.”