Sunderland face a difficult encounter at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, with the blue half of Merseyside – one of the in-form teams in the Premier League – looking to carry on their fine form in their quest for Champions League qualification.
The Black Cats, however, need a miracle to stay up, according to the Uruguayan manager Gustavo Poyet; and will need to start their unlikely survival with three points over the Toffees if they have any chance catching West Brom, Norwich and Fulham.
The hosts will miss Steven Fletcher and Kieran Westwood through injury, while Roberto Martinez looks set to be without Leon Osman. Long term injuries Steven Pienaar, Arouna Kone, Bryan Oviedo and Phil Jagielka remain on the sidelines.
- Sunderland have won their last two fixtures against Everton, both 1-0 wins for the Black Cats.
- Everton have scored first in their last six matches.
- Gareth Barry has scored four goals against Sunderland in his Premier League career.
- Romelu Lukaku’s 13 goals have won Everton 12 points this season.
- Sunderland have one win in their last five home games, and currently have the worst home record in the league with just 12 points on the board.
Key Players: Adam Johnson and Romelu Lukaku
Without Adam Johnson this season, it can be argued that the Black Cats and Gustavo Poyet would already be planning for life in the Championship.
His eight goals and four assists have been crucial in keeping Sunderland fans’ hopes up of the possibility of remaining in the Premier League, however small that possibility is.
Although, Gustavo Poyet’s decision not to start Adam Johnson against West Ham United was a strange one, especially after his perfectly executed finish against Sam Allardyce’s men last weekend.
The former Man City winger’s direct threat will look to pose many problems for Everton’s Leighton Baines, with Johnson accumulating a total of 67 total dribbles this season, successfully completing 35; furthermore, Johnson’s ability to fashion chances for his team has resulted in a total of 45 chances created.
If Sunderland is to get anything from their encounter against Everton, it looks like Adam Johnson will be their main threat.
Although, if they are to get anything in such an important game to keep their hopes of survival alive; they will have to keep a certain Belgian centre-forward quiet for the majority of the game.
Romelu Lukaku has 13 goals and 6 assists for the Toffees so far this season. Since the start of the 2012/2013 season, only Luis Suarez (52), Robin van Persie (37) and Daniel Sturridge (31) have netted more than the Belgian’s 30 Premier League goals.
Similar to Adam Johnson, Lukaku is comfortable with the ball at his feet, driving defences back – with the Belgian attempting 72 dribbles this season, successfully completing 36 – a 50% dribble success rate.
Averaging 156 minutes per goal, with a chance conversion rate of 22% and a clear-cut chance conversion rate of 58%, Lukaku is a threat in the finishing department, but the on-loan striker from Chelsea has also created 26 chances for Everton so far this season.
If Everton are to keep up their battle for Champions League qualification, they will need the former Anderlecht striker to carry on his rich vein of form.
Prediction: Sunderland 1-3 Everton