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Everton v Sunderland: Match preview

After two league defeats on the bounce spirits were raised with that memorable penalty shootout win against Norwich on Tuesday. Sunderland are the next opposition at Goodison Park on Sunday lunchtime, with Roberto Martinez’s side looking for their first Premier League win in four games.

Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Much of the hype surrounding this match has been about the goalkeeping position, with an increasing number of supporters calling for Joel Robles to be given a go ahead of Tim Howard.

Robles certainly did himself no harm with a competent display against Norwich on Wednesday but Roberto Martinez is insistent that Howard will be recalled this weekend.

The Spaniard even went as far as to say that Howard’s experience is more important than his individual performance, something I find hard to fathom, especially for a goalkeeper.

It looks like an attempt to boost the American’s confidence but may well be counter productive, as it has only served to sharpen the gaze on the 36-year-old going into this fixture.

Last weekend’s defeat at Arsenal finally brought an end to Everton’s tough start to the season, which saw the Toffees play last season’s top eight in their opening 10 matches.

It was against teams like Sunderland though that the team struggled to break down last campaign, particularly at home.

The Black Cats, Crystal Palace and Stoke all came away from Goodison with three points last season while Leicester, Hull and West Brom claimed a point. Sunday might be a lot tougher than many people think

The opposition

Sunderland looked a disorganised mess at the start of the season, particularly defensively. The honest and likeable Dick Advocaat had been persuaded to stay on despite initially planning to retire after keeping the club up last season.

It quickly became apparent that he wasn’t able to inspire the team in the same way he did during the second half of last season and resigned at the start of October with the club without a win in eight games.

In swept Sam Allardyce, who brought a planned break from the game to a premature end in order to take on the challenge of keeping the Black Cats up.

He has had an immediate impact, leading the club to a memorable 3-0 victory over bitter rivals Newcastle in only his second game in charge.

He will have worked hard on the training ground this week to get the side organised defensively so expect a very different side to the one we saw earlier in the season. Corners free-kicks, throw ins, expect the ball to be hurled into the box at every opportunity and put Everton’s backline under severe pressure.

Whether they have sufficient quality to take all three points remains to be seen, but with Allardyce in charge you can be sure as hell that it won’t be a comfortable afternoon for Martinez’s side.

Team news

As previously mentioned, Tim Howard is set to return in goal after sitting out the midweek League Cup win over Norwich. Seamus Coleman missed that game through illness and is considered a severe doubt for Sunday’s game. Ramiro Funes Mori is expected to keep his place with Phil Jagielka out until at least Christmas with a knee injury. Tom Cleverley could also feature after stepping up his return from a knee injury. Leighton Baines and Muhamed Besic are back in full training but unlikely to be ready for Sunday.

Final word

A game that looks a lot easier on paper than it will appear in reality, Everton will have to be patient going forward and diligent at the back, showing a willingness to roll up their sleeves and match Sunderland’s physical threat before being allowed to play football. If they do that then they are more than capable of coming away with the win.

Prediction: Everton 2-1 Sunderland

Predicted starting line-up: Howard, Browning, Funes Mori, Stones, Galloway, Barry, McCarthy, Deulofeu, Barkley, Kone, Lukaku.