Everton vs Southampton

, 29 December, 0comments  |  Jump to most recent
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Everton get a quick opportunity to bounce back from their nightmare against Sunderland with a second successive match in front of the Goodison faithful. With any pressure from their unbeaten home record in 2013 lifted by that Boxing Day defeat, the Blues can concentrate on getting back to winning ways, albeit with pressure of a different kind that came from wins for the two Manchester clubs on Saturday that moved City to the Premier League summit, seven points away, and brought United up to sixth, level with Everton on 34 points.

Roberto Martinez has made all the right noises following what was only his second defeat of the campaign, insisting that his players will learn from the experience and bounce back despite facing a difficult test against Mauricio Pochettino's Saints.

Southampton have fallen away somewhat from their excellent early-season form that made them a fixture in the top four, and recent injuries to Dani Osvaldo, Dejan Lovren, Artur Boruc and Victor Wanyama, combined with fixtures against the likes of Chelsea, City and Arsenal have seen them slip to ninth.

They remain a highly capable side that is tough to beat, though, and both Osvaldo and Lovren could return from their respectoive injuries. Either way, it's going to take a very good Everton performance to earn all three points.

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Martinez will face selection problems of his own following Thursday's game, with Tim Howard starting a three-match ban following his red card against Sunderland and Gareth Barry suspended for one game after amassing five yellow cards. That assures that Joel Robles will make his first League start for Everton but the manager will need to tinker with his midfield and decide who to partner with James McCarthy in the centre of the park.

Ross Barkley could return to the starting XI after being rested for the first half on Thursday and, as was the case when McCarthy was suspended against Fulham, could be joined by Leon Osman in midfield, with the pair taking turns to play off Romelu Lukaku.

With Leighton Baines a possible starter for the first time since the end of November, Martinez could deploy Bryan Oviedo further forward on the flank and move Steven Pienaar inside into a more central role. Though he was forced to withdraw from the Sunderland defeat at half time due to illness, Kevin Mirallas is expected to be well enough to start.

A victory to match the one secured in this fixture last season, followed by another three points at Stoke on Wednesday and the Boxing Day disaster won't seem nearly as bad. It would certainly be better than four draws over the Festive period and it would re-establish the team's momentum and the players' belief.

The danger is that the events against Sunderland have sowed seeds of doubt in the team's mindset but everything Martinez has done to date since becoming Everton manager suggests that that will not be allowed to happen. His seemingly limitless positivity should have the Blues up for it again and, hopefully — barring any hikinks from Mr Clattenburg, refereeing his first game at Goodison for six years — or excessive fatigue to the players they will bring 2013 to a close on a high.

Kick off: 1.30pm
Referee: Mark Clattenburg

Quotes or other material sourced from ToffeeWeb Match Reports

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