Everton seem to be plagued every year with injury issues, and the lack of squad depth really propagates that. Up to six regular starters missed the frustrating loss to Chelsea over the weekend, and that is set to continue with only Marouane Fellaini returning from his three-game suspension. The onus remains on the other players to step up to the plate and take up the slack.
After last season's fifth placed finish, Newcastle have struggled this year to match last year's standards and are currently foundering in fifteenth position, just three points clear of the relegation zone. The issues have been plenty, but the defence has come under a lot of fire, and owner Mike Ashley handing out eight-year contracts to the coaching staff has looked more and more preposterous as the weeks have gone on.
The two sides are capable of playing some very entertaining football, but the two injury-decimated squads will be hard-pressed to come up with a similar game to the one earlier in the year which was unfortunately taken over by the referee's incompetence.
Team News -
Vital midfielder Darron Gibson is expected to be out for the best part of January after aggravating his previous thigh injury. David Moyes is also still missing the services of Seamus Coleman who was handed a five-and-a-half year contract extension yesterday, Tony Hibbert, Phil Neville and Kevin Mirallas.
For Newcastle, the infirmary list remains long. Fullback Danny Simpson broke a toe against Arsenal recently, while Ryan Taylor, Vurnon Anita, Hatem Ben Arfa, Jonás Gutiérrez, Dan Gosling and Haris Vuckic all remain out. Centerback Steven Taylor and midfielder Yohan Cabaye have recently resume training, but are not ready to play yet. Striker Demba Ba is also under the spotlight as talk swirls about a controversial release clause in his contract, and he might be gone soon.
Keys To The Game -
It'll be interesting to see if Moyes will revert to his 4-4-1-1 now that Fellaini is back, or if he will keep Fellaini in midfield and retain the 4-4-2 with Nikica Jelavic and Victor Anichebe up top. One hopes that Moyes will go for the jugular against a severely-weakened Newcastle side that has shipped 11 goals in the last two games. Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman have been in sparkling form lately and more of the same is necessary for Everton to bounce back after Sunday's home loss.
There have been times Alan Pardew has struggled to put out a Premier League- worthy first team this season. With the exception of Cheik Tiote his entire midfield starting unit is in the infirmary, something that even Moyes has not had to face. Pardew has mentioned that his players are jaded, but will need to summon up some more energy from his boys for this home fixture. Striker Demba Ba, contract fiasco aside, has been in excellent form and the Blues will be well aware of the threat he poses after he grabbed a brace at Goodison earlier in the year. The central defenders simply cannot give him the same kind of room that they have given Carlton Cole and Arouna Koné in recent games.
Match Facts -
- Everton have now scored in their last 17 Premier League games, longest in the league this year.
- More ignominously, they have conceded in 15 straight games too, also longest in the league.
- The Blues have also hit the woodwork 17 times this season, another League high.
- Newcastle have played well against Everton at St. James' Park, with only one loss in the last ten games.
- The 68 points Everton collected in the 2012 calendar year was only behind the two Manchester sides.
- The Toon made Premier League history losing back-to-back games after scoring three goals in each.