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Struggling Everton can still survive if the players find their fighting spirit

After 34 Premier League games last season, Everton had accumulated 34 points.

They sat one place above the relegation zone, just in front of Burnley in 18th having conceded four fewer goals.

Next up was a home game against Chelsea, the club with which then-Everton manager Frank Lampard will always be most associated.

A bedraggled Lampard had endured a difficult season, not made any easier with the persistent and vehement fan protests aimed at the club’s board and owner.

He asked the supporters to get right behind the team, to create a ferocious atmosphere in the stadium and help see them to safety.

Thanks to a second-half goal from Richarlison and some heroics from keeper Jordan Pickford, Everton took the three points.

Afterwards, Lampard acknowledged the supporters for their contribution. They subsequently avoided the drop and Everton’s 68-year run in the English top flight rolled on for another campaign.

However, danger looms once again. Everton have collected just 29 points from 34 and are second from bottom in the table.

Amongst their remaining opponents are Brighton & Hove Albion, who are on track to finish in the top six, and title favourites Manchester City.

Aside from the manager, everything is a mirror image of last season. The performances are poor, arguably worse – the protests and discontent with the club’s board have grown more fevered.

All this combines to see Everton facing a genuine possibility of dropping into the Championship at the end of the season.

However, the one variable in the equation – Sean Dyche – could be the difference. He is no stranger to relegation scraps.

His time at Burnley was often spent near the danger zone – digging deep, dragging out results.

Everton fans will be looking at their upcoming fixtures and panicking. Brighton are enjoying a successful season, made all the more impressive considering that Graham Potter was prised away by Chelsea last September.

Potter had been Brighton’s manager for nearly three years. Since his departure, new boss Roberto De Zerbi has guided the Seagulls to a new level, with the club on course to achieve their highest-ever top-flight finish.

However, their record at the Amex Stadium, which is where Everton face them on Monday, isn’t massively eye-catching.

Out of 15 games, they have won eight, drawn three and lost four. They are by no means invulnerable at their home ground, and Dyche will believe his team can come out with at least a point.

The game against Man City at Goodison Park also gives Everton a chance to cause an upset. The game is sandwiched between City’s Champions League meetings with Real Madrid.

The first leg in Madrid, depending on what happens, could be crucial to Everton’s chances of taking something from their game.

If City are defeated or suffer injuries to key players, their momentum would be impacted and make that elusive treble more difficult to achieve.

The game could also be the perfect opportunity for Dyche to whip the fans into a collective frenzy once more, as Lampard did last season.

A point from the Brighton and Man City games may be enough for Everton, considering they get at least one win from their last two games against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Bournemouth.

Everton are in a rough spot – they may not escape the drop this time. But with Dyche at the helm – a battle-hardened Premier League manager who knows how to achieve results – anything can happen.

Regardless of what happens, Everton still have problems at boardroom level that need addressing.

The fan protests won’t cease. They could even increase, with the supporters demanding a swift response to yet another close call with relegation, despite the considerable expenditure on players.

But for now, it’s about staying up, and these next games for Everton are their most important in a long time.

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