Newcastle travel to Merseyside without the banned Papiss Cissé to face the Everton side he picked up his first long suspension of the season against. Going into the match we’re seven points ahead of the Blues, who should be safe from relegation with a win on Sunday. However, despite the lowly league position it is Everton who still have things to fight for this season, hoping to continue their strong run in the Europa League.
At St James’ Park in December the weaknesses of both sides was apparent in a 3-2 home win. Everton’s defence has been leaky this season, with their full backs mostly an attacking force the old Jagielka-Distin partnership has felt the strain. Whilst Newcastle can’t defend or hold leads well, but can rely on Pérez and Cissé for goals from nowhere.
Everton come into this game having fought back from behind to win 2-1 in the last 16 (first leg) of the Europa League on Thursday. Some have suggested this cup competition has contributed to their poor league form this season. However, what I hear on Merseyside is that their main striker is played out of position with low confidence and their defensive organisation is poor. Indeed Martinez is known to be inflexible with formations, forcing players to play out of their natural roles.
Your writer has been trying to think of something more interesting to write. However, if one is honest, Newcastle’s season is limping home now without much scope for drama. There’s nowt incisive to write.
Still out are Paul Dummett, Massadio Haïdara, Siem de Jong, Steven Taylor, and Cheick Tioté. Rémy Cabella and Rob Elliot are due to be fit enough for at least the bench, after returning to training in the week.
Cissé is of course suspended for his stupid reaction to Jonny Evans, while Jack Colback returns from his own stupid suspension, albeit for accrual of yellow cards.
For the hosts, defenders Leighton Baines and John Stones are doubts, Aiden McGeady and Steven Pienaar aren’t in contention, and Gareth Barry is suspended.
With Everton being a predictable 4-2-3-1 side, I doubt Carver will be ‘brave’ enough to go 4-4-2 away from home. Ryan Taylor should keep his left back spot over the Colback option. The latter will likely replace Abeid, who has come down injured just before the game. Hopefully Sissoko won’t be out wide but in his best position, that being as an attacking midfielder. As far as wingers go, it could be two from as many as five, so I’ve opted for the two last starters.
Coleman – Alcaraz – Jagielka – Garbutt
McCarthy – Besic
Lennon – Mirallas – Lukaku
I’d suspect Barry and Barkley will be rested after the Europa League, with the cup tied Lennon coming in for the latter. Martinez loves playing Lukaku on the wing, with a small technical player upfront and he may well do this again. Otherwise, swap Naismith and Lukaku.
Everton have only won three times at home this season, and after Europa League excursions I think they’ll struggle for fluency. Even with this, I’m going for a home win by an eventual scrappy goal. Mainly I’m predicting a dull affair. 1-0.
A Word from the Gaffers
John Carver: “I’m not worried about pressure and I’ve said to the guys, there’s no pressure, all the pressure’s going to be on Everton at Goodison Park. I was there last night and there was a little bit of pressure on them for the first 35 minutes.They coped with that got a good goal and dominated the second half. There’s no pressure on us, the players can go and express themselves.
It’s difficult to balance the demands of the Europa League and we can vouch for that when you’ve got a squad like we had then and they have now, it’s very difficult to cope with the demand. They’ve played 14 games more than us. “It’s demanding, only the sides with huge squads will cope and they’re suffering because of that – the competition is a problem for that. Everybody wants to get into the top half and qualify for the competition. It needs to go back to a knockout competition.”
Roberto Martinez: “On Sunday, we need that level of performance we saw in the second half. We were outstanding in the second half. When we get the tempo right and have that expression in our play, we have shown that we are a good team.
Any team that hasn’t got 40 points in the final third of the season is in a relegation fight. The big advantage I have is that I’ve been through that every season.
You can never over-pass. Passing for the sake of it is not going to take you anywhere. There’s a reason behind every pass.”
Lawro: “Everton are on a poor run in the Premier League, particularly at home where they have not won since they beat QPR on 15 December. Newcastle, meanwhile, have been so-so since John Carver took over and they are just drifting towards the end of the season. So I can see this being the win that Everton need to allay their relegation fears. It has to be. I don’t think they are in danger of going down anyway, but three points would steady the nerves a little bit.” 2-1
Where to Watch/Listen
The match is not televised live in the UK. Local commentary, as always, is on BBC Newcastle, with talkSPORT covering the game overseas.
How do you think we’ll get on in this game? Have your say in our discussion thread.
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