Everton go into Old Trafford on Sunday having drawn their last two matches (both on the road) with late equalizers. The Blues will try to get the best of a Manchester United side that, despite spending millions in player acquisitions, have been defeated by both MK Dons and Leicester City this season.
Everton are back on the road for the fourth game in a row and only three days after a nearly 5000 mile trip to Russia. The team has been victimized by injuries of late, and manager Roberto Martinez gave an update on Friday regarding some of those injured players. Here's what he said:
"We could get some players back this weekend, James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman will have late fitness tests, so it's too early to tell on those two. But Steven Pienaar has been training really well and I think he probably has got the better chance of the four players looking ahead to the weekend."
Martinez also talked about Ross Barkley's return, and while he has no chance of playing on Sunday, it's great news for Evertonians:
"I think he will be back training with the team after the international break and then we will have to see how long it'll take Ross to get back to match fitness from then."
Manchester United are a team that need no introduction, though there are a number of new faces at Old Trafford this season (Angel di Maria, Radamel Falcao to name a few). The Red Devils are now led by Dutchman Louis Van Gaal, who was hired after leading the Netherlands to a third place finish in the 2014 World Cup.
Captain Wayne Rooney is suspended for three games for a red card incident against West Ham last Saturday. United, like Everton, are ravaged by injuries.
Van Gaal on Sunday's selection dilemma: "We have eight injuries and one suspension, so nine players are not available." #mufc— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 3, 2014
That injury list includes: Michael Carrick, Jonny Evans, Ander Herrera, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, and Ashley Young. Familiar face Marouane Fellaini should be fit to play against his former club.
What to Watch For
Though Manchester United will go into Sunday down nine players, they do go into the game with Angel di Maria, Radamel Falcao, and Robin Van Persie, who will surely cause problems for Everton's shaky defense. Martinez should start John Stones and Phil Jagielka at center-back. Stones turned in a great performance against FC Krasnodar on Thursday, and will try to keep that form going in the Premier League. Evertonians hope that they will see Seamus Coleman's return to the right-back position, but he will undergo a fitness test before the game. If Coleman is deemed unfit, 33-year-old Tony Hibbert will play, unless the manager takes a big risk and starts the 20-year-old Tyias Browning.
United have had their own problems in the back and Everton must exploit those problems if they want to escape Manchester with a result. Van Gaal likes to play with three center-backs, but with injury problems it is unclear whether he will play that way on Sunday. Martinez needs a better showing from Romelu Lukaku and a return to early season form from Steven Naismith to wreak havoc on the United defense.
Playing without their captain will be a concern for Manchester United, but Van Gaal said in his press conference:
"In his position Juan Mata has played very well. I have to choose. I will miss Wayne because he is the captain of the team but Mata can also play very well."
Everton and Manchester United are similar in that neither team has played in a consistent manner this season. The match is a good test for both, and a win could instill confidence for the long season.
Time, TV, Where to Watch
The match starts early on Sunday, but Martinez insists there will be no fatigue from Thursday night's away match in Russia:
"The kick-off time is a bit of a disappointment because every hour you can get is a bonus, but we don't see that as an excuse or reason to moan."
UK - 12pm kickoff - BT Sport 1
USA - 7am EST kickoff - NBCSN