A pair of teams fighting in the face of adversity, they are nonetheless battling different demons and have very different objectives now for the campaign: The Toffees to overcome a 10-point penalty, survive the season and continue the latest rebuild; the Magpies to balance competing on multiple fronts and, if they can, retain their place in the Premier League’s top four.
Everton’s giant obstacle is, of course, one of their own making. Whether or not accounting differences of opinion are the ultimate deciding factor, there’s simply no debate that they’ve wasted far, far too much money in the pursuit of anything beyond the usual mediocrity. It hasn’t worked, it made them worse and now they are paying a sporting price for their overly-exuberant financial ones.
As for Newcastle, their difficulty at present comes in the shape of a devastating injury list, the spine of the team removed after the long-term losses of goalkeeper, centre-back and central midfielder, plus rather more sporadic absences of centre-forwards and support cast.
And yet, as football teams tend to do when well-coached, when togetherness is inbuilt, when the mentality and mindset of the squad is a positive one, both clubs have fought enough already to suggest they can readily overcome their hurdles: even as they enter this encounter below the positions they’d ideally occupy, both have shown recent form which outperform that spot in the league table.
There cannot be much understatement over the job Sean Dyche has done this season. Even under his influence last term, Everton still looked ragged, bereft of attacking intent, incapable of scoring the goals they needed to survive more often than not. Somehow they did, in no small part thanks to Abdoulaye Doucoure, and this term is a different matter entirely. While still not free-scoring, Everton are far more resolute, far more organised. They have structure, they have set approach plays, they know they want to go about earning the points they believe they can claim each game.
A suggestion has been that they are fortunate, to an extent, that their points punishment has come this season instead of last year. Perhaps it’s true, but the players, the coaches who are there now can only deal with the obstructions put in their way, and this Everton side don’t just look capable of getting outside the bottom three after a minus ten, but considerably further up the table. Indeed, 13th spot would be theirs by results so far, despite starting the campaign with three straight defeats and one win in seven. Recent form has them even higher - ninth across the last six games - and they look to easily possess the characteristics in their group to gradually regain ground not just on safety, but on the next glut of teams closely gathered together in the bottom half.
It’s even perhaps arguable that they have enough tenacity, endeavour and quality throughout their team to trouble Newcastle.
Eddie Howe’s team have been at their best when they can impart a tempestuous, chaotic nature on matches this season, invariably at home and when their non-stop energy reserves have ample noise recharging them throughout. But Dyche’s side won’t be out-run, won’t be out-fought. The Everton wingers will track back and shut off passing lanes far more than Manchester United’s did against either of these sides recently, with very mixed results.
And as much as Newcastle have risen against adversity - they sit third in the form guide, including wins over Arsenal, Chelsea and Man United - one win from six on the road this term does hint at an understandable inability to totally recapture their St. James’ Park endeavours on a game-to-game basis.
They do, however, possess the player who might be most in-form out of either squad. And that player also happens to be one who might have most to show, if not to actively prove, in Anthony Gordon. A hostile reception is guaranteed for the former Everton star, and given his recent goal record it’s not beyond the realms of football scriptwriting that he has the decisive say on where the points head on Wednesday night.
But regardless which team ends up celebrating at the end of 90 minutes, they’ve both shown more than enough over the last month to suggest that after a full 38 games, both can be toasting their achievements, going above and beyond their early-season hopes, no matter what impediments were thrown in their way.