Garry Monk takes his Swansea side to a revitalised Everton today believing it is no coincidence that the Toffees’ upturn in form has come with Ross Barkley finally over his early-season injury problems.
Roberto Martinez’s side scored six goals in beating Aston Villa and Burnley to move into ninth spot after a sticky start to the campaign and they would leapfrog sixth-placed Swansea by beating them at Goodison Park.
Swansea have never won on the blue half of Merseyside and Monk has identified Barkley – who scored in both Everton league wins against them last season – as the main threat to his team creating club history.
“Barkley is a top player, a real talent,” Swansea manager Monk said.
“He plays with no fear and he is a big factor for them.
“They missed him when he was out. Since he’s come back he’s done well and, if he stays fit, he will only get better.
“He is right up there as a young English talent. I know he has been likened to quite a few players and ability-wise and talent-wise he is showing that week in, week out.
“He’s only just come back from his injury so whether he is at his full best right now I don’t know, but he is right up there.
“Roberto will give him the freedom to express himself, but he can attack and defend and he is an all-rounder.”
Swansea claimed their first win in 21 attempts against Everton in September when Monk’s men ran out comfortable 3-0 Capital One Cup winners at the Liberty Stadium.
They also claimed a first win in six league games with a 2-0 victory over Leicester last weekend, but Monk knows the size of the challenge ahead as he once more comes up against his former Swansea manager Martinez.
“We beat them before but that was in the cup and the league will be a different situation,” Monk said,
“Goodison is a really tough place to go but we go there with confidence after an important win against Leicester, which was a bit of justification for the lads.
“We are not expected to get anything from the game, but we are sixth in the league and have good momentum.
“We can go there with freedom and put on a performance that warrants some points.”
Everton have had a rare free week to prepare for the game without any European distractions, while Swansea have already been on Merseyside this week in losing 2-1 to Liverpool in the Capital One Cup.
Monk knows the strain that playing in the Europa League puts on players after Swansea’s participation in the tournament last season but he believes Everton have now adjusted to the demands of juggling domestic and European commitments.
“The games come thick and fast and you get out of the routine with games on Thursday and Sunday,” Monk said.
“We learnt it’s an adjustment last season when we were in the Europa League, but they are a more experienced squad in Europe.
“They are showing they are right back to where they were last season.
“We go there as underdogs given the form they are in, but we’re confident we can go up there and do something.”