After a 1-0 loss at home to a mediocre Stoke City side, Everton will have to travel north to Newcastle just two days later and try to put things on the right track. Newcastle United, like many of the teams the Blues have faced of late, are on a downturn having lost their last three matches. Blues manager Roberto Martinez needs to lead his team to a turnaround, and fast, as the losses are beginning to add up and the team is sliding down the Premier League table.
Darron Gibson, Tony Hibbert, and Leon Osman were already slated to miss the trip to Newcastle, but now Tim Howard and Phil Jagielka may be joining their ranks. Both the goalkeeper and defender had to be replaced at halftime and now may miss Sunday's match, according to the Everton website.
Steven Naismith will miss the trip north due to a suspension for yellow card accumulation.
Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas, and the newly-returned John Stones were all treated for injuries during the loss to Stoke, but all were able to return to action. There is no word on whether their injuries will keep them out of Sunday's match
Manager Alan Pardew has led his side to three straight losses after upsetting Chelsea on December 6th. Newcastle United occupy the tenth spot on the table after rising as high as fifth this season.
Pardew's team is coming off a 3-1 loss at Old Trafford where he started a 17-year-old striker (Adam Armstrong), a derby loss to Sunderland, and a 4-0 hammering from Tottenham.
What to Watch For
Both teams are under a lot of pressure to get three points on Sunday. Everton especially need a win to avoid dropping towards the relegation zone.
Martinez started a strong lineup against Stoke (on paper), but the team looked lethargic, slow, and were never dangerous in attack. Some of the Everton youth will surely get a chance to shake up the starting eleven with two games in three days and injuries to veterans.
With no Naismith and possibly no Mirallas it is possible that Martinez will return Barkley to his natural position, which could be the key to breaking Everton out of a two-game goal drought.
Joel Robles should start in goal after Tim Howard suffered what appears to be a calf injury in Friday's loss.
The Final Word
At the end of a December marred by disappointments, my prediction is a 1-1 draw against Newcastle United. I hope I'm wrong and Everton get a revitalizing win, but nothing in the past month has shown me that that could happen.
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