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Allardyce looking to maintain revival at former club Newcastle

Big Sam has yet to taste defeat since becoming Toffees boss

Liverpool v Everton - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Well that was fun.

Ok, for 77 minutes it wasn’t great. But Wayne Rooney’s leveller, Jurgen Klopp’s meltdown and the furious reaction from Kopites in the ensuing days makes it one of the most satisfying points taken from a derby game for a long time (we don’t take many points to begin with).

There’s no denying the tactics employed by Sam Allardyce were pretty industrial and tough to watch. But after the shambolic defending we’ve witnessed this season, it was refreshing to see a back four look organised and well drilled.

Given the resources at his disposal and relatively short time he’s had to work with the players, it’s hard to see how Allardyce could have set the team out in any other way.

Certainly opening up and attempting to go toe-to-toe with Liverpool, like Roberto Martinez did, would only end in a thrashing given their powerful front line.

Liverpool v Everton - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Attacking-wise we were poor granted, but the new-found solidity at the back ensured we were always in the game and able to capitalise on any mistakes by the Liverpool defence.

That mistake subsequently happened (thanks Dejan) and Rooney was on hand to secure a point that maintains the team’s upturn in form.

Three games, seven points and - perhaps most significantly - just one goal conceded, suggests a corner has finally been turned.

The threat of relegation, while not completely vanquished, has been eased and the club can even start looking upwards again.

Six games in 20 days over the Christmas period lie ahead, offering the chance to pull further away from the foot of the table.

Then, with the January window open, Allardyce can begin to rebalance this horribly lopsided squad and hopefully put this wretched autumn run well and truly behind us.

The opposition

life is never dull up at Newcastle.

The Magpies are English football’s resident crisis club, their world seemingly always just a few games from collapsing around them.

Relegation in 2015-16 was swiftly followed by the Championship title last season, with the presence of former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez in the dugout suggesting things were looking up.

Newcastle United v Barnsley - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

But, as ever, boardroom rumblings and patchy league form suggests it could be a long winter for the St James’ Park club.

Owner Mike Ashley remains in talks with Amanda Staveley and PCP Capital Partners over a possible takeover. But while the two parties haggle over a price, the current board are reluctant to spend money that won’t yield a return.

That will affect Benitez’s January transfer plans, with the Spaniard keen to add some top flight experience to his squad to try and stave off the drop.

However, the club’s value would plummet if they went down to the Championship again, meaning Ashley may have to splash the cash simply to protect his asset.

On the pitch a bright start to the campaign (they were as high as fourth in September) has been wiped out by a woeful few weeks that has seen the Magpies lose six out of their last seven matches to slip to within two points of the relegation zone.

To add further spice to this fixture the two managers - Allardyce and Benitez - have a chequered past.

The feud began when Liverpool defender Sami Hyypia suffered a broken nose in a game against Allardyce’s Bolton in 2004.

The dispute then appeared to become a clash of football philosophies, with Benitez scathing of what he perceived to be Allardyce’s direct and aggressive tactics. Allardyce in turn thought Benitez was arrogant and dismissive.

Bolton Wanderers v Liverpool Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Allardyce has been keen to play down the row in recent years, suggesting it was all gamesmanship and mind games (though a few digs aimed in Rafa’s direction in his 2015 autobiography suggests otherwise).

Another sub-plot in this encounter is Allardyce’s short-lived tenure at St James’ Park a decade ago. Allardyce left Bolton at the end of the 2006-07 season to move to the north-east but spent just eight months at the club before being sacked in January 2008 and replaced by Kevin Keegan.

It all makes for an intriguing backdrop to what is a crucial match for both sides going into the festive period.

Team news

Sam Allardyce has confirmed he will again be without Leighton Baines due to a calf injury.

Michael Keane and Phil Jagielka were unused substitutes at Liverpool so could come in if Allardyce decides to rotate his squad.

Yannick Bolasie made his long-awaited injury comeback for the U23s on Monday but is still a few weeks away from a senior return.

Predicted starting XI

Everton: Pickford, Kenny, Keane, Jagielka, Martina, Schneiderlin, Davies, Lennon, Rooney, Lookman, Niasse.

Final word

It’s amazing what a few positive results can do for confidence. Just a few weeks ago the side looked completely shot and staring relegation in the face. Now they are on the cusp of the top eight.

Given the two side’s form you would have to fancy Everton to get a result. But we don’t know how much Sunday’s game took out of the players, plus this is the same group that stank out the first part of the season so there’s no guarantee of anything.

They should be confident of taking at least a point though ahead of a home game against another struggling side, Swansea, to come on Monday.