Premier League preview: Everton host Sunderland at Goodison Park
Last Updated: 24/12/13 12:05pm
Ross Barkley: Helping Everton pursue their European ambitions
Everton welcome rock-bottom Sunderland to Goodison Park on Boxing Day as they look to continue their assault on the Premier League top four.
The Toffees have exceeded expectations this term, losing only one of the 17 top flight outings and are unbeaten in their last 10.
A 2-1 victory over Swansea at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday temporarily elevated Roberto Martinez's men into the Champions League places, before Chelsea's goalless draw at Arsenal put them ahead on goal difference.
The likes of Ross Barkley, who stole the headlines after scoring a stunning winner in South Wales, Seamus Coleman, James McCarthy and Gareth Barry have all impressed in recent weeks; but top scorer Romelu Lukaku has now gone four games without a goal.
Although Martinez will consider fifth to be a good return at Christmas, Everton could have found themselves higher were it not for seven draws - a joint league high with West Bromwich Albion.
Everton's only defeat of the season came away to Manchester City, but considering they have won all their home games and scored 35 goals in the process, it is not surprising that is the only blight on the Toffees' 100% record.
Conversely, the winter outlook at Sunderland is rather bleak, with the Black Cats rooted at the foot of the table, having only just broken into double figures.
Gus Poyet's side have just two wins to their name, both of which coming in their last 10 outings, and remain in search of the league form which will ignite their season.
Despite the Premier League table looking gloomy for Sunderland, their cup displays have shown signs of quality with a scintillating half-hour seeing them to an extra-time victory over Chelsea as they booked a place in the Capital One Cup semi-finals.
After spending almost 90 minutes without threatening the title contenders, a late equaliser from Fabio Borini took the tie into extra time, where Ki Sung Yueng sealed victory late on.
Poyet will hope his men can display such heart and resilience in the coming league fixtures to drag themselves out of the relegation mire and pull towards safety.
Paul Merson's prediction
Everton are flying along and getting great results but I don't think Sunderland are a bottom-of-the-table team and they should stay up. Everton will win this game but they aren't playing a group of no-hopers so I think this will be closer than a lot of people would expect.
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-0
Everton manager Roberto Martinez could receive a late Christmas gift with left-back Leighton Baines set to be in contention against Sunderland.
The defender has missed the last five games after suffering a broken toe and will provide added impetus for Everton as they look to improve on their fifth-placed positioning.
Blues striker Nikica Jelavic is also expected to be available having missed Sunday's 2-1 win over Swansea with a minor hamstring injury.
Midfielder Steven Pienaar and defender Sylvain Distin both sustained knocks at the Liberty Stadium but neither should be ruled out, while veteran full back Tony Hibbert is also over a knee problem.
Sunderland manager Gus Poyet will have to sweat on the fitness of John O'Shea who faces a fight to be available for the trip to Goodison Park.
The Republic of Ireland international is currently undergoing assessments on shoulder damage sustained in the Black Cats' goalless stalemate with Norwich at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
O'Shea defensive partner Wes Brown is unavailable as he serves the first of a three-match ban following his late red card against the Canaries.
Poyet is still with goalkeeper Keiren Westwood and defender Carlos Cuellar who are both ruled out with shoulder and hip injuries respectively.
Previous game's starting line-ups
- 24 Howard
- 23 Coleman
- 6 Jagielka
- 30 Alcaraz
- 29 Garbutt
- 16 McCarthy
- 4 Gibson
- 18 Barry
- 14 Naismith
- 10 Lukaku
- 11 Mirallas
Team taken from Everton vs BSC Young Boys Bern (Europa League) on Thursday 26th February 2015
- 1 Pantilimon
- 27 Vergini
- 16 O'Shea
- 5 Brown
- 15 Reveillere
- 20 Alvarez
- 6 Cattermole
- 7 Larsson
- 11 Johnson A
- 19 Graham
- 28 Defoe
Team taken from Sunderland vs West Bromwich Albion (Barclays Premier League) on Saturday 21st February 2015
Barclays Premier League
Thu 26th Dec
Hull City2 - 3Man Utd
A Villa0 - 1C Palace
Cardiff0 - 3So'ton
Chelsea1 - 0Swansea
Everton0 - 1S'land
Newcastle5 - 1Stoke
Norwich1 - 2Fulham
Tottenham1 - 1W Brom
West Ham1 - 3Arsenal
Man City2 - 1Liverpool
Barclays Premier League
|8||West Ham United||26||39|
|14||West Bromwich Albion||26||27|
|17||Queens Park Rangers||26||22|
Everton v Sunderland Premier League
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet has plenty of New Year optimism after seeing his side beat Everton on Boxing Day.
Sunderland secured a 1-0 win over Everton to give them hope in their battle against relegation.
Roberto Martinez denied that Everton's style was a factor in the incident which led to their 1-0 defeat by Sunderland.