Everton caretaker boss David Unsworth has labelled Sunday’s Premier League clash with Watford a “cup final” that is “huge” both for him individually and the Merseyside club as a whole.
The 18th-placed Toffees will head into the match at Goodison Park on a losing streak that extended to five games with yesterday’s 3-0 Europa League defeat at Lyon.
That latest reverse, as Everton crashed out of the continental competition with two more group matches still to play, was the third since Unsworth took temporary charge following Ronald Koeman’s sacking.
Unsworth has expressed his desire to become full-time manager, while the likes of Sam Allardyce and Sean Dyche have been linked with the vacancy.
And the club are expected to make a decision on a permanent successor to Koeman in the international break that follows the Watford fixture.
When asked after the Lyon game how big a blow he thought the loss was for his chances of getting the job, Unsworth said: “What will be will be.
“Other people will decide whoever gets the honour of being Everton manager.
“It’s not about me, it’s about getting over this disappointing result, taking the positives and trying to pick a team to go and win a massive game on Sunday, a cup final for me. It’s about the club and what is best for the club.
“We need to start winning games, particularly on Sunday, where I think it’s a huge game for me and a huge game for the club, and I’ve left the players in no uncertain terms that it is a huge game for them as well.
“I’m sure they will respond and the Goodison faithful will get behind us all, because we need them. We need three points on Sunday.”
Unsworth, who opted to rest Wayne Rooney, Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka for Thursday’s match, put out a starting line-up that featured six changes and no recognised striker, with Gylfi Sigurdsson playing in the nine position.
Everton kept Lyon at bay until Bertrand Traore opened the scoring in the 68th minute, and his strike was then added to by substitute Houssem Aouar’s 76th-minute effort and a Memphis Depay header two minutes from time.
Also, the Toffees had Morgan Schneiderlin sent off for a second bookable offence in the 80th minute.
Unsworth added: “For nearly 70 minutes we were nearly perfect with our game-plan.
“But we just can’t cave in the way we did when we concede a goal.”
There was some positive news for Everton later in the evening as it emerged right-back Cuco Martina had been released from hospital with the all-clear to fly back to Merseyside with his team-mates.
Martina had been carried from the field on a stretcher with a neck brace on late in the first half of the match after landing awkwardly from an aerial challenge with Maxwel Cornet and receiving treatment on the pitch for several minutes.