Everton welcome Sunderland to Goodison Park on Thursday as one of eight 3pm kick offs. The Toffees have performed excellently this season having only lost one of their seventeen Premier League games this season, undefeated in their last ten. As such they sit fourth in the league and were it not for their seven draws (the joint highest with West Brom) could be even higher. Conversely Sunderland sit bottom on the bottom have just broken into double figures in Premier League points.
Everton have been proven difficult to beat this season, and the only side that have managed to accomplish that task have been Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. Considering the fact that the Manchester club have won all of their home games so far scoring a total of 35 goals in the process, it isn’t surprising that it is the only blight on Everton’s 100% record. Everton raised eyebrows once again with an impressive win over resilient Swansea in Wales at the weekend and it will be good boost ahead of this one. The likes of Barkley, Coleman, McCarthy and Barry have impressed in recent weeks although top scorer Romelu Lukaku has gone four games now without a goal. It hasn’t stopped Everton from getting results though, so imagine the effect it will have when the big Belgian starts finding the net once again.
Sunderland are still looking for a some kind of spark to take them on a run of positive results that shall ignite their season. In the league they have only two wins in ten games, but out of the league we have seen the kind of attitude that could save them in the league. Before their 0-0 draw to Norwich at the weekend we witnessed 30 minutes of extraordinary determination and even football quality against Chelsea in the Capital One Cup. Sunderland spent 90 minutes without really threatening against the title contenders but after a last minute equalizer that took the match to extra time, there was only going to be one winner. Sunderland spent the next 30 minutes of added time overrunning Chelsea, the biggest change coming in their work ethic. It proves that effort determination is all that is needed for them to turn their relegation candidacy on its head. Once they achieve that in every game, they have the players to move off of the bottom.
- Romelu Lukaku may not have scored for 4 games, a drought by his standards, but he has scored 3 goals in 2 Premier League games against Sunderland.
- Sunderland’s April win against Everton last season was their first in 16 attempts in the Premier League (D4 L12).
Seamus Coleman has been one of Everton’s under-the-radar star performers this season. He is appreciated by Everton fans for sure, but perhaps not by everyone out side that circle. His goals have certainly put him into the public eye, indeed he has 4 this season which is high for a full-back, but aside from his goal scoring he has been very strong. As a defender he makes his impact and enters into a tackle every 10.34 minutes, higher than Distin (26.84) and Jagielka (26.38), one reason for this being that he enters into challenges higher up the pitch and therefore wins the ball in more dangerous situations. He has also made 31 headed clearances this season which is only bettered by the central defensive pair. In attack he is the team’s most creative player from open play and has layed on 20 chances for his team mates. This has been helped by his superb dribbling ability, as he has attempted 57 dribbles at a 54% success rate, helping to get around the back and put a cross in for his team mates. Seamus Coleman is indeed vital to Everton’s success.
He may not be showing the kind of form that Sunderland fans had hoped for, but Emanuele Giaccherini has still showed glimpses of the player he was at Juventus. He provides Sunderland most direct threat and has taken the most shots (24) in the entire squad and has 2 goals to show for it. This makes him Sunderland’s joint top goal scorer (and that perhaps tells a strong about where some of Sunderland’s main problems lie). He has a shooting accuracy of 38% and only Altidore (67%) is higher in the team. As a creative force, only Adam Johnson (17) has created more than Giaccherini’s 16 chances from open play. Similar to Johnson he likes to run with the ball at his feet at has attempted 39 dribbles, completing half of them successfully. He now needs to take his game to the next level and if he can do so he’ll not only be a key player for Sunderland in this match but throughout the season.
The newest news and biggest disappointment for Everton fans will be the injury to loan star Deulofeu. The Spaniard was in sharp form having finally broken into the side but he will now be out until the end of January with a hamstring injury. Baines is coming close to a return, although this will probably be a bit too early for him. Kone and Gibson remain injured both without an exact return date.
O’Shea has picked up a shoulder injury for Sunderland, and as of yet it is unknown how serious it is. He may be able to make this match but there is no return date set. Cuellar and Westwood are Sunderland’s other two absentees.
Sunderland may be showing a little more resilience, but Everton have been impressive form and will be desperate not to drop points against relegation candidates in their fight for Champions League football. As such, I will predict Everton as winners but in a close encounter.