Everton visit Sunderland on Boxing Day for their third match, of nine, in a 28 day period. The Toffees will look to continue their impressive record, against Sunderland, having won 11 and drawn 3 of the last 14 meetings. Sunderland’s last win over Everton came on 22nd Dec 2001. The Mackems have also failed to score in five of their last seven matches against Everton. The last encounter resulted in a 2-0 home win for Everton with Jermaine Beckford scoring both goals.
Everton will look to exploit Sunderland’s poor home record. Sunderland have won only four home games and kept just two home clean sheets in 2011. The Mackems have won just three of their last 16 home games. Sunderland will take comfort in the knowledge that Everton have conceded the first goal in 15 of their 19 games, this season.
The Toffees’ midweek win over Swansea, was their first in 4 games, and saw Everton claim their first home clean sheet of the season. The Toffees have acquired most of their points, this season against teams in the bottom half. Just one of their 20 points; the recent draw with Norwich, has come from teams in the top half.
Martin O’Neill’s arrival has lifted Sunderland. Sunderland secured last gasp wins over QPR and Blackburn, either side of a narrow loss to Tottenham and a late win over Blackburn. O’Neill’s impact has been instant impact, picking up six points from his 3 games in charge. In comparison, Steve Bruce’s last nine games generated the same number of points.
There is a clear weakness in the Sunderland team and Everton may recall Tim Cahill to exploit it. The Sunderland defence has conceded 21 goals this season and 38% of them have been headers – the highest in the league. This, coupled with the fact Sunderland have only won 43.42% of their aerial duels, may lead to a recall for the spring heeled Aussie.
Everton have a more cautious approach to defending than the home team. Everton have attempted less tackles and less possession and aerial duels than Sunderland. The home team have also made more interceptions than the Toffees.
Everton have made 252 tackles this season – the lowest amount in the league. A figure easily dwarfed by Sunderland’s 379 tackles. Despite attempting the lowest number of tackles, Everton have the highest tackle success rate in the league. The Toffees have won an impressive 80.16% of their tackles.
Everton’s main problem this season has been a lack of goals. Only Swansea and Wigan have scored less than Everton’s total of 17. The Toffees have failed to score in six of their league games this season. The Mackems are also far from prolific, managing just 21 goals.
The number of clear-cut chances made is one of the reasons both teams have struggled for goals. Less than 20% of Everton’s chances are clear-cut (18.46%) and only 11.44% of Sunderland’s chances are clear-cut. Everton’s saving grace has been their conversion rate of clear chances with Sunderland converting just 3 of their clear openings.
A look at both team’s passing statistics shows why they’ve struggled for goals. Both have plenty of possession in opposition territory. However both teams spend almost as much time in their own half as they do in the final third. Failure to turn possession in the opposition half into chances in the final third is costing both sides.
Seamus Coleman is out (Thigh) after his injury resurfaced in the midweek win over Swansea. The Irish full back isn’t expected to return until the Bolton game on 4th January. Jack Rodwell is very doubtful (Hamstring) and Conor McAleny is also a doubt (Hamstring). Victor Anichebe remains the only long-term absentee (Groin).
Apostolos Vellios has been left out of the last two match day squads as manager David Moyes has been unhappy with his efforts in training. Royston Drenthe will be looking to continue his good recent form after another impressive outing against Swansea. Marouane Fellaini was back on form with a MOTM display against Swansea. The Belgian enjoys playing Sunderland with two goals in his last three visits.
Keiren Westwood will continue in goal for the home team as Simon Mignolet is still out (Nose). Frazier Campbell and Craig Gordon are fit but short of match practice. Conor Wickham is doubtful and saw a specialist in midweek (Knee). Both Marcos Angeleri and Michael Turner remain sidelined (Knee).
Everton are trying for back to back wins, for only the second time this season. The Toffees will also look to take advantage of Sunderland’s weakness in the air. Sunderland will fancy their chances against an Everton defence that’s kept just 3 clean sheets this season. Everton’s Achilles heel is conceding first in matches they’re dominating; something Sunderland will be keen to take advantage of.
6th – Sunderland’s league position, this time last season
29 – Games since Tim Cahill’s last goal for Everton
54 – The number of shots, on target, Everton have allowed their opponents; this season – the lowest in the league
71 – % of Everton’s goals, this season, have been scored in the second half a league high
998 – Everton’s number of Premier League points; a win would make them the 7th team to pass the 1000 mark