With no midweek game to occupy minds there has been a lot of soul searching over the past few days, as supporters continue to question whether Roberto Martinez is capable of combining his swashbuckling attacking style with any sort of solid defence.
John Terry’s 98th minute equaliser at Stamford Bridge last Saturday should not have been allowed so Martinez did have reason to feel aggrieved. But that wasn’t the first time this season Everton have been caught out late in the game, and plenty of pundits and analysts have questioned the side’s defending in the build-up to the goal.
The result was yet more dropped points and another week spent in the bottom half of the table – which is bordering on disgraceful considering the squad Martinez has at his disposal.
Everton have only won three times in the Premier League since September - all against the current bottom three (indeed their only win all season against a side not currently in the bottom half of the table was 10th placed Southampton in August). So with Swansea lurking just one place and one point outside the relegation zone this game represents a great chance for the Toffees to claim a much welcome three points.
It wouldn’t completely paper over the cracks and erase the doubts in Martinez’s stewardship but it would at least restore the club to a more respectable league position and give them a much needed confidence boost heading into Wednesday’s Capital One Cup semi-final second leg at Man City.
I don’t think many people expected to see the Swans struggling as badly as they are when they made their pre-season predictions back in August. After recording their highest ever league finish last year under Garry Monk and recruiting wisely in the summer it seemed the Swans would continue their upward curve and push for the European places.
However, for some reason it all just seemed to collapse. After taking eight points from their opening four matches, Swansea would then win just one of their next 13 games, with Monk paying for that slump with his job at the start of December.
The Swans’ board have an impressive recent history of managerial appointments, including our very own Roberto Martinez as well as the likes of Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup.
However, in this case it looked like they fell into a blind panic and sacked Monk without having a replacement in mind. A botched attempt to hire Barcelo Bielsa led to assistant Alan Curtis – who had been in caretaker charge – being appointed until the end of the season. Then, last week, former Udinese boss Francesco Guidolin was named head coach until the end of the campaign to work alongside Curtis.
It is all very chaotic and not what we’ve come to expect from Swansea in recent years, though they would argue Monday’s win over Watford is a signal things are now edging into the right direction.
After having a week to work with his players Guidolin will take charge officially for the first time at Goodison on Sunday – will the ‘new manager effect’ once again have an impact?
Everton have been boosted by the news that Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy have both returned to training and are in contention to return on Sunday.
Bryan Oviedo escaped any serious injury after he was carried off on a stretchered clutching his ankle last weekend and could feature.
Steven Pienaar and Tom Cleverley are also in contention, giving Roberto Martinez some much-needed options in midfield.
After am impressive performance last weekend Kevin Mirallas will also be hoping to keep his place and make up for what happened the last time the two sides met in September, when the Belgian was sent off just seconds after coming on as a late substitute.
The new manager factor does add a layer of intrigue to this game but there is no doubt that is it a fixture Everton should be looking to win. We all know they need to improve their defending in order to climb the table but it’s whether Martinez has the appetite to change that remains the great unknown. Therefore it looks likely that we will have to rely on outscoring Swansea rather than rely on keeping it tight at the back.
Predicted Everton XI: Howard, Coleman, Jagielka, Stones, Baines, Besic, Barry, Mirallas, Barkley, Deulofeu, Lukaku.
Who would be you in your starting lineup?