TV Info - Live Soccer TV
November 9, 2014 - 8:30 a.m. EST, 1:30 p.m. GMT
A tremendous showing against Lille on Thursday has brightened spirits on Merseyside, but now Everton must shake its inconsistent domestic form, beginning with a trip to Sunderland.
The Toffees have a win and two losses in matches after mid-week Europa League competition, having lost at home to Crystal Palace and at Manchester United, while winning at Burnley. With how well the Europa League campaign has gone, Roberto Martinez and co. need to put at end to this trend soon, or the club could be looking at plenty of dropped points going forward.
John Stones and Kevin Mirallas remain long-term injury absences. There is no new news on the Stones injury, with it looking like the young Englishman will be out until the new year. Mirallas though, could be looking at a return as soon as after the upcoming international break.
The recent injury to Antolin Alcaraz is not quite as serious as originally thought, and will not require surgery, as Sean Lunt told us Friday.
There are two new injury concerns though, Seamus Coleman and Gareth Barry.
Roberto Martinez told EvertonFC.com:
Seamus had a little cut to his Achilles tendon against Swansea and he needed some stitches. We are assessing that. He couldn’t make it yesterday but I wouldn’t consider it as a real issue. It’s about taking the doctor’s view before the [Sunderland] game and making a decision based on that.
We came through the [Lille match] with just a knock to Gareth Barry. This morning he was showing a long cut on his shin which is nothing to worry about, but he got a massive knock on the ankle and we need to give it another 24 hours.
Both will face late fitness tests, and their availability for the match is up in the air.
The Black Cats are coming off the club's first away win of the season, a 3-1 victory at Crystal Palace. Though Sunderland hit a tremendous low point in its 8-0 defeat at Southampton, and did not earn its first league win until October, Gus Poyet's squad sits safely in 15th place after Saturday's first round of matches.
Putting the Southampton debacle aside, the Black Cats' issue has been attacking far more than it has been defending. Even with an 8-0 loss on the books, Sunderland (18 goals against) has conceded less or equal goals to Crystal Palace, Leicester City, QPR, and Burnley. Even Everton, currently 10th, has conceded 17.
Sunderland has only scored 11 goals in league play, four of which have come from two Steven Fletcher braces. Connor Wickham, whose late season goal-scoring prowess kept the Black Cats afloat last year, has struggled to rekindle that form, with only one league goal so far. American striker Jozy Altidore does not rate highly with Poyet, who has yet to hand Altidore a Premier League start this season.
Adam Johnson, at times a key contributor last season, has been inconsistent as well.
One of the bright spots for the Black Cats has been Lee Cattermole, whose play has brought a level of possession-based mindset to the often smash-and-grab Sunderland. Calvin's Q&A with Roker Report discussed his influence, and Poyet himself has urged his side to follow Cattermole's lead.
Fortunately for Everton, Cattermole will miss out on Sunday's match due to yellow card accumulation, along with Patrick van Aanholt, who is out due to injury.
Jack Rodwell could be in line for a start against his former club in place of Cattermole.
What to Watch For
Much of what to look for in Everton's game plan hinges on the health of Coleman and Barry. Tony Hibbert and Muhammed Besic have both proven to be acceptable replacements for each, but remain not of the same quality.
With Sunderland's top choice left-back, van Aanholt, out injured, Martinez would surely love nothing more than to send his top choice right-sided players bombing toward his replacement, but with Mirallas out and Coleman questionable, that will not be plausible.
If Coleman can play, look for McGeady to play down the right as well, in an attempt to make that wing a hub of attack against a weakened defense.
If he cannot, then a midfield trio of Barkley, Naismith, and Osman might make an appearance, with the Toffees looking to pass Sunderland's weakened central midfield to death.
Sunderland, though at home, I think will expect to be out-possessed, particularly with no Cattermole in the lineup. The Black Cats may come out in a defensive setup, looking to spring the crafty Fletcher when possible.
The Final Word
Everton needs three points here. This is a Sunderland side that is missing key players, and though hard-working, is not particularly talented. Players like Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku have to come ready to break down a determined side on the road.
Their ability to do that is necessary both for success against Sunderland and for turning the domestic season around.