Simon Mignolet has admitted that Sunderland's players were called to a team meeting, to make sure their defeat at Everton in the FA Cup quarter-final did not ruin their season. Thus far, it has not, and today they have the chance to extract a small portion of revenge for that loss at the Stadium of Light last month.
"We spoke about that," said Sunderland's Belgian keeper. "You can do one of two things after being knocked out of the Cup. You can let the season go and start to think about holidays; on the other hand, there's still lots to play for. We can still finish seventh. We are looking forward to that. That's the thing we want to achieve.
"Everyone was disappointed when we got beat by Everton. Everton were the better team. We all wanted to go to Wembley, but that's behind us now. We are looking forward to the league game now. You can't think about revenge, if you focus on the fact that they knocked us out of the Cup then you will struggle. We will go there and try to do our jobs, like we did against Tottenham and Manchester City [two league games they have drawn]. If we do that we can win at Goodison Park.
"We haven't got a lot of good results there over the years. The last time we played there, in the Cup, we got a draw. On a good day we can beat them."
Those draws with two of the top four sides have given further proof of the rejuvenation of Sunderland under Martin O'Neill and Mignolet said: "It is not only the defenders that are doing well. The whole team is doing very well. If they can keep the ball further forward it makes the job of defending a lot easier. It is now going to be a tough game against Everton. There's big competition in the squad. When everyone is fit, we have a very decent team."
The Everton manager, David Moyes, will be looking for more of the same from Nikica Jelavic, the 6ft 2in Croatian striker who scored both the Merseysiders' goals in a 2-2 draw at Norwich on Saturday. Jelavic arrived from Rangers in January for what looks a bargain £5.5m and Moyes says he has given his side the attacking confidence they lacked in the first half of the season.
"He sees scoring goals as his main job," said Moyes, "but he is a real presence at centre-forward as well and provides a focus to our forward play. He's adapted really well [to English football] and made a big difference."
Everton v Sunderland
Everton: Howard, Hibbert, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Coleman, Fellaini, Gibson, Rodwell, Cahill, Jelavic
Sunderland: Mignolet, Colback, Kilgallon, Turner, Richardson, McClean, Cattermole, Gardner, Larsson, Campbell, Sessegnon
Odds Home Evens; Draw 9-4, Away 3-1.
Kick-off Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC1 10.20pm)
Team news Marouane Fellaini started on the bench on Saturday should be recalled alongside Darron Gibson in midfield. Jack Rodwell (hamstring) and Royston Drenthe, (compassionate leave), could play and Seamus Coleman may also feature. Sunderland striker Nicklas Bendtner has a sore back while Lee Cattermole faces a late test.Reuse content