Sunderland travel to Goodison Park this weekend desperately searching for a result that will restore the faith and confidence lost after the humbling home defeat to Southampton. David Moyes will be hoping that a recent jaunt to the Big Apple will provide the catalyst required to help his side earn a good result on a ground he is all too familiar with.
Koeman’s Everton, on the other hand, will be looking for a victory of their own as they strive to shore up 7th place, and a potential European spot should the Cup Finals fail to spring any surprises. That being said, Everton have been hit and miss this season and Sunderland certainly stand a chance of coming away from this encounter with a point or more.
In a week where the club announced the possibility of redundancies, David Moyes, Martin Bain and all those associated with the club will be hoping beyond hope for a positive result. A win could see us escape the throws of the relegation zone, while a draw would certainly help to keep us in touch with those clubs just ahead of us in the standings - it’s all to play for both on and off the pitch.
Everton have had a bizarre season that will most likely end with a top-half finish if nothing else. They have produced moments of magic - as seen in the 6-3 demolition of Bournemouth and 4-0 victory against high flying Manchester City - but have also struggled for consistency - as witnessed in the 0-0 draw away to Middlesbrough and the 2-2 draw away to Hull.
Koeman will be hoping that his men are able to overcome their shrinking displays against clubs deemed poorer than themselves, but may find it difficult against Moyes’ Sunderland who will surely be determined to prove their worth in the run up to Easter and their usual reincarnation.
There is very little need to delve into the world of statistics in a forensic attempt at searching for clues as to how the game will unfold. Everton are a good team while Sunderland have under-performed all season, but that being said, not all hope is lost. This weekend will be an important game for both clubs as they look to ignite the remainder of their seasons in an attempt at forging success at either end of the Premier League table. Hopefully Moyes’ men can come out on top.
This weekend should provide an interesting spectacle especially considering the links found between the two clubs. This game will not only be shaped by tactics and formations, but also by the attitude of many Sunderland players - as well as the manager - as they look to get one over their old employers.
Joleon Lescott, Bryan Oviedo, Darron Gibson, Jack Rodwell, Steven Pienaar and Victor Anichebe are all old Evertonians, and those fit and ready to play will certainly be eager to show their old club what they’re missing. It’s always an interesting edge to a match when a player comes up against a former employer, but with so many ex-employees to choose from many will watch this weekend’s game with an added level of intrigue.
David Moyes has put a lot of faith into men he knows and trusts, and whether that pays off for him come season’s end is still an ongoing concern. However, Sunderland will have a small advantage due to Moyes’ Everton bias in the sense that both Bryan Oviedo and Darron Gibson will certainly understand some of the tactical intricacies expected of Koeman’s men. Any information they can give to the team will be priceless and could certainly play in our favour.
Sunderland will undoubtedly play with the 3-5-1-1 system adopted by Moyes in recent weeks, and if they can utilise it effectively then Everton may find themselves with a task on their hands. The tactic is a stubborn formation that relies on absorbing pressure before countering teams on the break, or at least in a more direct fashion. It didn’t really work well against Southampton last time out, but it nullified Tottenham’s insatiable attack and enabled Moyes’s men to rout Crystal Palace, so there is evidence to suggest that it can be effective.
The trick to winning the battle will once again be in the centre of the park. Sunderland don’t really have a plethora of attacking talent, but if we can harry the Toffees and force them into making mistakes due to our work-rate and energy they will struggle to find a way past out compact line-up. Sunderland have relied of Jermain Defoe’s clinical nature for two season now, and we will once more this weekend - we won’t have a great deal of opportunities, but the sprightly forward is most certainly the man you want in the area if we do.
If we are able to stifle Everton’s advances, we must also be far more clinical in possession. Against Crystal Palace the midfield was not only able to control the midfield, but it was also effective in supplying Adnan Januzaj, who was in turn able to supply Jermain Defoe. When Januzaj wasn’t available the midfield trio then looked to supply Oviedo and Jones out wide; unfortunately against Southampton the midfield were ineffective and couldn’t find Januzaj, or indeed the wing-backs. Sunderland must ensure Everton do not stifle their own attempts at creativity, and the performance of Didier Ndong and Darron Gibson will be crucial in affording other the time and space necessary to cause danger.
Victor Anichebe, Jack Rodwell, Paddy McNair, Duncan Watmore and Jan Kirchhoff are all either still injured of still not adequately fit to be available for selection.
Lee Cattermole has a slight Achilles niggle that will further hinder his return with Moyes noting:
He’s recovering from his hip but he’s trying to get over the period of getting injured and getting back, so I don’t think it will necessarily be a quick return.
I don’t want to say that he won’t play again this season, and with the way the fixtures have gone with the cups we may find there’s a batch of games at the end of April.
Perhaps that may help us because we might be able to get Victor Anichebe back, we maybe get Catts back and we certainly hope Kirchhoff will be back, so it might be our advantage.
Jordan Pickford is fit, however, and could reclaim his place between the sticks at Goodison park.
Romelu Lukaku will be fit to face the Lads, and Papy Djilibodji’s suspension will mean that Lamine Kone, John O’Shea, Jason Denayer, and potentially Joleon Lescott, will have to deal with the bustling Belgian’s advances.
Predicted XI: Pickford, Oviedo, Denayer, O’Shea, Kone, Jones, Larsson, Gibson, Ndong, Januzaj, Defoe.
Score Prediction: Energy, passion and grit will be crucial in preventing Everton from running riot as they have done in recent home games. If the Lads can be sensible in possession and conscientious at the back they could come away with a decent result. I’d take a draw if you offered it to me now in all honesty such has been the dominance of Everton’s recent home form. That being said, I think this game has the potential to be a dour affair as Moyes could look to frustrate his old employers. I’m going for a bold 0-0 because of the emphasis we will place on securing our defence in the wake of Everton’s recent home form, and our own turgid display last time out.