Roberto Martinez and his Everton club would like to forget the entire month of December. The Blues could only manage four points in seven matches (across all competitions) and are now eager to change the calendar to January. But while 2015 does bring a new year and new opportunities, along with it it brings the same injuries, poor form, and questionable managerial decisions that resulted in a disastrous twelfth month of 2014.
Steve Bruce's Hull City are on a similar downturn, having lost three of their last four matches. Everton will look to take advantage of the struggling Tigers and begin the new year with three points on the road.
The latest on Tim Howard is that the American goalkeeper could miss 4-6 weeks after suffering a calf injury in the first half of the loss against Stoke City. The rumor mill has begun to swirl with talks of finding a replacement for the shot-stopper with only Joel Robles and two young players available to take his place in goal.
Roberto Martinez revealed that Phil Jagielka, James McCarthy, and John Stones will all be checked for fitness before playing against Hull. Here's what Martinez had to say about McCarthy's status:
"James McCarthy will be assessed for Thursday. It's too early to say at the moment. It was more of a precaution [that he was withdrawn] against Newcastle rather than an injury - he couldn't continue, but we'll have to be careful that he gets back to being fully fit before he faces the demands of a full 90-minute game."
The boss also said that Darron Gibson, Tony Hibbert, Leon Osman, and Steven Pienaar would not make the trip to Hull.
Everton faced Hull City less than a month ago at Goodison Park, a 1-1 draw that marked the last time Romelu Lukaku's name was on the Toffees' scoresheet. Sone Aluko leveled the score for the Tigers in the second half.
Steve Bruce is attempting to rally the fans on New Years' Day in an effort to begin the new year with a win. Here's what he said on the Hull City website:
"Victory over Everton could be the springboard we need going into 2015, and I ask our fans to get right behind the lads and be our 12th man when Roberto Martinez's side come to town."
Midfielder Gaston Ramirez is doubtful to appear on Thursday.
What to Watch For
It's a bit of the same old story for Everton as they go into a match looking for redemption against a weak or struggling side. Evertonians have endured a grim holiday season and are ready to start the new year with a win against Hull City, but that will be no easy task with the injuries and recent form of key players.
While it seems like the Blues have the pieces to succeed with names like Samuel Eto'o, Romelu Lukaku, and Kevin Mirallas on the team, Martinez has yet to find a formula with which to assemble them and get consistent results. The last two fixtures, while two days apart, prove that while a team may look strong on paper, it may not be successful on the pitch.
The Hull City match will be Everton's third in six days and Martinez will yet again need to be creative with the lineup to get a result. With the transfer window opening, and a string of difficult games ahead, this is another must-win match for the Blues.
The Final Word
While I don't believe it will be a "new year, new team" situation for Everton, I do believe they will cure their December hangover with a 2-1 win over Hull City. Be sure to vote for your winner and comment with your thoughts on the match.
Go here for TV, radio, and online streaming info.