London – Everton, the surprise package in the Premier League so far this season, will be out to maintain their superb start when they make the short journey to Wigan Athletic this weekend.
The Merseyside club, who have found themselves overshadowed by the exploits of neighbours Liverpool over the years, are sitting pretty in second place, three points behind Chelsea but above Manchester United, champions Manchester City and the rest.
It is a start that has surprised many but one that goalkeeper Tim Howard believes can be put down to team spirit and some canny summer spending by manager David Moyes.
“I think our start is down to the quality of players the manager has brought in over the last six months or so,” the American told Everton's official website.
“We now have a bunch of players who are comfortable on the ball, who can take the ball and be match-winners. That is something all the top teams have, and we have got a few of them on our team.
“It is important to have the likes of (Nikica) Jelavic and (Steven) Pienaar and (Marouane) Fellaini. Kevin Mirallas has come in, too, and sparkled on the wing.”
Many teams have flattered to deceive over the years only to fall down the standings as the wear and tear of the season kicks in.
But Howard believes the intelligence of Moyes and the spirit within the team means they are better able to maintain their challenge than others in the past.
“I think top four (is realistic) but we know it is going to be a hard ask as well,” he said.
“Having said that, in order for us to do great things, we have to punch above our weight. “We are not a huge squad, and we don't have boatloads of money like other clubs, so in order for us to get the job done we have to stay really consistent for quite a few months.
“Is it achievable? Of course it is. We did it a few years back under the manager (in 2004-05), though I arrived at the club shortly after that, and this is the best, most talented squad we have had since then for sure.”
Moyes was delighted with his side's performance against Southampton last weekend, when they recovered from a goal down to record another confident victory.
And with Wigan sitting just one point above the relegation zone, Moyes will fancy his side's chances of another win on Saturday afternoon.
“I hope there is more to come from us,” Moyes said, “because we want to play like we did in the first half against Southampton for 90 minutes.
“There will be times when we have to grind things out like we did in the second half, but we want to play like we did at Swansea and against Aston Villa and we want to keep that going.”
Chelsea will be confident of at least maintaining their advantage at the top as they welcome a struggling Norwich City side to Stamford Bridge.
Former England captain John Terry seems likely to play again despite an impending four-match ban for a racial slur but that's the only controversial issue for a Chelsea side fresh from a confident Champions League win in midweek.
Behind them, United and City know they cannot afford to let Chelsea get too far ahead, even this early in the season, and will be chasing maximum points.
United are away to Newcastle on Sunday while City host Sunderland the day before. Fifth-placed Tottenham, who won at Manchester United last weekend, welcome Aston Villa while sixth-placed West Bromwich Albion take on bottom side Queens Park Rangers.
In the weekend's other matches, an improving Liverpool take on Stoke City, Arsenal travel to West Ham, Southampton face Fulham and Swansea meet Reading. – Sapa-dpa