The Toffees will look to continue their challenge for the Champions league places under Roberto Martinez while the Black Cats will be hoping for three points which may help them in their bid for survival.
Sunderland’s fight for survival
Gus Poyet said that time is running out for Sunderland to ensure their Premier League status. Good performances from the team have been accompanied by profligacy by their frontmen or amazing performances by the opposition goalkeepers. Only West Brom in the last five years have managed to survive the drop after being rooted at the bottom of the table on Christmas. As a result, it is highly imperative that Sunderland get three points this time around and begin their revival as soon as possible.
High flying Toffees
Everton’s fortunes cannot be more contrasting. Martinez has proved his pedigree as a coach as Everton have been the most impressive team this EPL campaign with only one defeat coming home to Manchester City. Most of their victories have been good team performances as they have rarely relied on any one or group of individuals to get points.
Howard, Barry, Coleman and the ever improving Barkley have been particularly impressive this campaign. Injury to their star player Leighton Baines has provided an opportunity to Oviedo, and he has not disappointed. While Lukaku has fizzled out slightly after a blistering start, Mirallas and Pienaar marauding along the wings and interchanging positions have posed a big challenge to the opposition defences.
Possible title assault on the cards?
The table is extremely tight at the top. Liverpool in first place are separated from fifth placed Everton by just two points. Everton have been afforded the kindest of the fixture list this Christmas among the top five. Besides, the goals have started to flow for the team after the initial lull. With all the title contenders set to lose points due to their tough fixture list, it wouldn’t be a complete surprise to see Everton at the top end of the table after the holiday fixtures.
- Sunderland managed to win their last match against Everton courtesy of a Sessegnon goal.
- Sunderland have not defeated Everton in the Premier league since 1996.
- Everton are on a 10 match unbeaten streak; the longest unbeaten run this season in the Premier League.
- Everton have meanest defence in the Premier League with only 16 goals conceded.
Players to watch out for
Everton: Everton have been a perfect example for a well balanced team as no player has particularly stood out, and the goals have been shared by everyone. But Barkley has been catching the eye with his impressive driving runs and reminds me of a young Steven Gerrard. His free kick that gave Everton three points against the Swans indicates his amazing technical ability. His ability to skip past his marker with ease, picking out the perfect pass in the final third coupled with a dangerous shot make him a very difficult proposition to face. If he continues in such form, he may well earn his ticket to Brazil ahead of Cleverley and Henderson.
Sunderland: The Wearsiders have only won three points in six games since their victory against Manchester City. Hence, it is very difficult to pick out a player but Adam Johnson showed what the Sunderland team was missing after coming on as a substitute against Norwich. The former City man has failed to live up to his tag. Nevertheless, he is still a threat on the counter, and Coleman is bound to have his hands full against the Englishman.
Team News and likely Starting Line Ups
Pienaar and Distin who picked up minor knocks last week may be available for the Boxing Day clash. Baines may also be available but is unlikely to be risked for this match. Hibbert and Jelavic also might see a few minutes in the match but are unlikely to start given the team’s performances recently.
Sunderland will be without Wes Brown who got a red card in his last EPL match against Norwich. But captain and former United player John O’Shea is set to make his comeback into the team.
Everton: Howard, Coleman, Heitinga, Jagielka, Oviedo, Barry, McCarthy, Mirallas, Pienaar, Barkley, Lukaku.
Sunderland: Mannone, Bardsley, O’Shea, Celustka, Larsson, Cattermole, Giaccherini, Johnson, Ki-Sung Young, Fletcher
As pointed out by Martinez, any team capable of defeating Manchester City is always dangerous and Everton should be wary of the improving Sunderland team. On the other hand, Everton and Martinez have really impressed this season against both the smaller and bigger clubs. With the kind of form Everton are in, it is highly likely that they may continue their unbeaten run.
Everton 3-1 Sunderland.Published 26 Dec 2013, 15:42 IST