Everton vs Sunderland
Everton vs Sunderland, a fixture that usually would be a mid-table clash – one that doesn’t really set the world alight – however, after Evertons great start to the season, putting them in fourth place and Sunderlands dip in form as of late, leaving them sixteenth, this could be an interesting game, a game that both sides will see as winnable, but who will gain the valuable three points?
The only injury concern for Everton is the fact that Darron Gibson is doubtful, however Leon Osman can fill in in the centre of midfield, after recently getting his first call-up to the England side. Everton will also be boosted by the fact Steven Pienaar has now returned from his suspension, meaning the partnership of Leighton Baines and Pienaar down the left-hand-side can be reunited, which will be a thorn in Sunderlands defence, after causing nearly every team they’ve played trouble, with their tremendous understanding of each other’s games.
Despite not winning in their last four games, drawing all four of them, Everton have started the season in sensational form, fourth in the table and playing some great – the typical Everton season is starting badly, but ending brilliantly, and after always hearing ‘imagine if Everton started well’ it seems they have finally done that, so what is the limit for this Everton side? If they want to beat Sunderland they’ll need left-back Leighton Baines to be on form. Baines has been the most creative player in the league this year, just edging ahead of Arsenal star Santi Cazorla, which is a huge feat and even bigger from a defensive position. Averaging 4.4 key passes per game, they’ll need him to be on form if they want to return to winning ways, after drawing their last four games.
Sunderland don’t have any fresh injury concerns, however, with Wes Brown injured and Titus Bramble doubtful, they don’t have a selection headache in defence, with Cuellar and O’Shea expected to start.
Sunderland looked promising after the signings of Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher in the summer transfer window and after starting well the optimism must have only risen, however, lately their form has come to a halt, and it seems they’ve already become too reliant on Fletcher to finish off chances. To beat Everton they’ll need Fletcher to be clinical and take his chances, as he may not get too many at Goodison Park, however, a big problem for Sunderland this season has been finding goals from other positions with Fletchers 5 goals being an 83% contribution - the highest in the league. Sunderland are still four points above the drop zone, however, a win could see them move back into mid-table (11th being the highest possible) and with Everton, despite their good start to the season, not winning in four, the chance could be there if Sunderland can turn up.
This is an extremely tough game to call, with a boring draw being my first thought, however, with Sunderlands dip in form, Evertons home form and the fact Everton haven’t won in four, I do think Everton will edge this game, even more so because Sunderland haven't beaten Everton pin their last six encounters. Goodison Park is a tough place to go, and I feel that will carry on, with Everton taking the three points, stepping even closer to becoming serious contenders for the European Qualification places.