Two sides with contrasting trajectories on the English Premier League table meet when Wolverhampton host Everton on Saturday.Everton has turned around their mid-season blues with a five-match unbeaten run, so far culminating in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at home to Aston Villa.
With little fanfare, the Toffees have climbed to seventh in the standings, four points behind their sixth-placed Merseyside rivals Liverpool.
Over at the Molineux, Wolverhampton could be forgiven for despairing after a weekend of unfavourable results conspired to keep them second-bottom on the table and a point from safety.
Of course, Mick McCarthy’s men have no-one to blame but themselves for their 4-1 shellacking at Newcastle United, but wins to Birmingham and West Brom and draws for Aston Villa and Wigan certainly did not help their survival plight.
With the season reaching the pointy end and an intriguing relegation battle unfolding between at least seven sides, a slip-up at home against Everton could be a critical error.
But the signs are still good for Wolves, who have lost just two of their last seven and look a vastly improved side from earlier in the term.
Wolves have made a habit of responding emphatically after disheartening defeats. Their Boxing Day loss to Wigan was followed up with victory at Liverpool, and a similarly poor showing at West Ham turned itself around at Chelsea.
McCarthy, something of an old hand at relegation scraps, is keenly aware of the need for cooler heads at the Molineux, and has warned his troops keep calm and consistent against Everton.
Over at Goodison Park, though, they might be getting a little carried away.
Fresh from swiping seventh place from Bolton, Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard has warned Liverpool to watch their backs as David Moyes’ men look to “get some more results and push even higher”.
But the Premier League is a fickle competition, and with the Toffees a mere three points away from Sunderland in 12th it would be hasty to focus on anything other than Saturday’s match.
On the injury front, Tim Cahill is in doubt to front up for Everton as he continues to nurse a foot injury, joining Louis Saha, Mikel Arteta, Jack Rodwell and Marouane Fellaini on the sidelines.
Wolves have no new injury concerns, and could be welcoming back Stephen Hunt to the first team after the Republic of Ireland international got through a reserves clash against Manchester City on Monday.
Fellow midfielder Adlene Guedioura is also available after recovering from a broken leg, with McCarthy indicating the Algeria international may get a run on the weekend.