Everton travel to Sunderland on Tuesday for the replay of their FA Cup quarter final fixture that ended 1-1 in Goodison ten days ago. Everything that we said for that game still applies, with now this game becoming biggest of the season. The only difference will be that this should pose a stiffer challenge as the Stadium of Light is not the easiest place to play at. On the flip side, Everton should be boosted after one of their best performances of the season in their 2-0 win against Swansea, on the road no less.
The Toffees will be going into the game in a much better mindset than last time around, after David Moyes' personnel moves before and during the game paid off handsomely. A similar gameplan to neutralize the threat of Stephane Sessegnon will be required for continued success and a ticket to face Liverpool at Wembley. More after the jump.
Sunderland won 3-1 in a dominant performance against ten-man Queens Park Rangers on Saturday to stay one place ahead of Everton in the Premiership, with only goal difference separating the two sides. Everton on the other hand sat back and took the sting out of Swansea's vaunted passing game before creating a bucketload of chances in the second, converting two for the win.
Moyes meanwhile has started the mind games by proclaiming the Black Cats as favourites for the return tie, stating that the pressure is on Martin O'Neill with his side being at home. Read the corresponding Q&As done on Royal Blue Mersey and the Roker Report for more on what to expect from the respective sides. O'Neill is a very wily manager and Moyes has struggled to beat him one-on-one. Sunderland on their part have not beaten Everton in sixteen previous games, so something will have to give tomorrow.
Inspirational midfielder Steven Pienaar will be missing for Everton as he is Cup-tied. Darron Gibson looked impressive in his return from injury in choking off Swansea's passing attack, and should play the same role tomorrow as well. Royston Drenthe was surprisingly left off the squad sheet over the weekend, and with Pienaar missing, can expect to have his left wing role back. Jack Rodwell and Seamus Coleman are both out with injuries.
O'Neill will be glad to have Sessegnon and club captain Lee Cattermole back, though Cattermole will have a hard time getting back into the starting XI with how well Jack Colback has been playing in his absence. Defenders John O'Shea and Kieran Richardson will both be out but right-back Phil Bardsley and setpiece-specialist Sebastian Larsson should return to the team after getting a day off on Saturday.
Keys To The Game
Everton will need to make a quick start and put the pressure right back on the home side. Frustrating the Mackems and taking the crowd out of the game will go a long way in making the Blues passage smoother. Expect Moyes to choke off the midfield once again using Gibson, Leon Osman and Tim Cahill, leaving Marouane Fellaini as the supply line for Nikica Jelavic who will once again be expected to provide the goalscoring for the Blues.
On their part, Sunderland will come flying out of the blocks, and attempt to impose themselves in midfield. They have shown themselves to be more than capable of controlling the pace of a game. Nicklas Bendtner is very good in the air and James McLean and Larsson will be charged with getting crosses in the box for him to either shoot or lay off for Sessegnon.