Everton vs Sunderland

, 26 December, 0comments  |  Jump to most recent
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Everton are home for Christmas again coming off the back of another stirring result on the road, this time a 2-1 win over Swansea City that positions the Blues nicely just two points off the top of the table coming into the Boxing Day programme.

They face the Premier League's bottom club, Sunderland, the team they have met more than any other over the past 10 years on this date and who they memorably thrashed 5-0 on 26 December 1999.

A repeat of that latter result would, of course, make a superb Christmas present for the Goodison faithful who are in good heart as the team enjoys a run that is up to 10 matches now without defeat and, with back-to-back home games, presents Roberto Martinez's men with an opportunity to extend it further heading into the New Year.

The Spaniard is expected to be boosted by the return to fitness of Leighton Baines who has been out for a month with a broken toe. His deputy, Bryan Oviedo, has performed superbly in his absence, though, and Martinez has admitted that the England international's recovery makes for a selection headache, albeit the right kind. Dropping Oviedo would be harsh on the Costa Rican but it would not be surprising to see him start as a substitute and then be used as an attacking option off the bench if needed in the second half.

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Everton are likely to be otherwise unchanged. Steven Pienaar suffered no lasting effects from the bruised hip he suffered towards the end of Sunday's win at the Liberty Stadium and is expected to start. Gerard Deulofeu is, of course, out until the end of January but Nikica Jelavic should be available again after recovering from flu.

As was the case versus Fulham in the last game at Goodison, it is imperative that Everton remain focused and do not allow sloppiness and complacency to creep in as they did in that match against the Cottagers. They certainly need to ensure they perform better than the last time they faced the club on the bottom of the pile — the goalless draw at Crystal Palace now represents one of those missed opportunities that arguably kept the Blues off top spot over Christmas.

Gus Poyet's Black Cats have been struggling for goals and points but it's unlikely they will lack effort and determination as they look to try and launch an escape from the relegation zone. They're likely to be weakened defensively by the loss of Wes Brown who is banned for three matches while John O'Shea is a doubt with a shoulder injury. Carlos Cuellar (hip) and Keiren Westwood are definitely ruled out.

Based on the two teams' respective records so far, this is a match where Everton just need to keep doing what they have been doing at the back and up front and the three points should follow. Sunderland are yet to pick up an away win so far this season and have just three points on their travels while the Blues are in a rich vein of form that could take them top, for a few hours at least, should they win and other results fall their way.

Kick off: Referee: Lee Probert

Quotes or other material sourced from ToffeeWeb Match Reports

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