Roberto Martinez’s honeymoon period as Everton manager shows no signs of ending, with Sunday’s 2-1 win over Swansea keeping the Toffees in fourth spot and extending their unbeaten run to 10 games.
Across Europe’s top leagues, only Roma and Bayern Munich have lost fewer league games this season than Everton, which illustrates the scale of Sunderland’s task as they look for a win that could lift them off the bottom of the table.
Despite their impressive League Cup triumph over Chelsea, Sunderland’s initial resurgence under Gus Poyet has come to something of a halt, with no wins in their last six league games. Sunderland have failed to score in four of those matches, and the visit to Everton pits their misfiring attackers against the country’s most parsimonious defence.
Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines have dispelled any doubts about their England credentials with a series of assured performances at the back, and they may yet be joined on the plane to Brazil by Ross Barkley, whose winner against Swansea on Sunday was the highlight so far of his eye-catching season. For Sunderland’s players, summer destinations will be the last thing on the minds, as they concentrate on putting an end to their winter of discontent.
KICK OFF: Thursday, 3pm
PAST THREE MEETINGS
Sunderland 1 (Sessegnon) Everton 0, Premier League, April 2013
Everton 2 (Fellaini, Jelavic) Sunderland 1 (Johnson), Premier League, November 2012
Everton 4 (Gueye, Pienaar, Osman, Anichebe) Sunderland 0, Premier League, April 2012
Sunderland’s 1-0 win over the Toffees in April was their first in 20 league and cup meetings.
The last time Sunderland won at Everton was in November 1996.
Bottom club Sunderland lead the league in own goals and red cards, with 5 each. No other club has recorded more than 2 of either.
Everton have conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League this season (16).
Everton to win: 1.36
Sunderland to win: 9
TV: Highlights on BBC1 at 10.25.