A top-six finish this season is looking like a realistic target for an Everton side that appears to be back to their best under Roberto Martinez in 2015-16.
The Toffees have proven this term that they can beat anyone on their day, while the individual ability and quality in their side should not be understated.
A 1-1 draw last time out against Merseyside rivals Liverpool will come as something of a frustration for the Goodison Park outfit, as it was the hosts that were looking more likely to pick up all three points as the game progressed.
Another significant challenge awaits Martinez’s men this weekend, as Manchester United are in town and keen to make amends for a defeat to Arsenal in their last game.
With the clash set to be decided by the finest of margins, here are three things Everton must do if they are to pick up all three points.
Gone are the days when Everton’s starting XI was predictable; the Toffees have strength in depth across the park and plenty of options for Martinez to select from.
For this clash, the Spanish boss has a number of interesting personnel decisions to make if the hosts are to be victorious.
John Stones is fit to play after shirking off injury and will surely replace Ramiro Funes Mori at centre-half, despite the Argentine’s positive start to life in England.
Seamus Coleman is also set to return to first-team action, but it will be interesting to see whether Martinez deems him fit enough to make the starting line-up.
The final key position where the former Wigan coach must get his choices right is in wide areas, with Aaron Lennon, Arouna Kone, Steven Naismith, Gerard Deulofeu and others all looking to get the nod.
Following on from the previous point, Everton’s wingers will play a significant role in getting the better of a United side that looked weak on the flanks at the Emirates Stadium.
Matteo Darmian was given the runaround by Alexis Sanchez, while Ashley Young’s deployment in the back four still has question marks surrounding it.
If Everton can get the likes of Deulofeu and Lennon in one-on-one situations against their opposite numbers, with progressive full-backs overlapping, it could be a real source of success for the Merseyside hosts.
Van Gaal has had three top-class central midfielders to select from this season for two spaces, with Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin and Michael Carrick all in the reckoning to start at Goodison.
If as expected it is the German and veteran Englishman who are fielded, Everton must close down these refined pass-masters and prevent the rich flow of distribution that comes from deep.
The energy of James McCarthy and Gareth Barry will be needed for the ploy to work, but Martinez and the home faithful will also want a shift from their attacking players such as Barkley and Lukaku to win the ball back high up the pitch.