Martin O'Neill has yet another tough test ahead as we take on bogey-side Everton.
After some much improved performances from the lads, Everton roll into town and provide yet another test. Martin O'Neill has managed to prove that with his tactics and ideas we can break down a stubborn defence, we can play just as good as some teams who are chasing the Champions League and we a can recover from a huge set-back to take all three points.
Now the Blues are in town, can we overcome a team that are rapidly becoming a bogey-side. We'll try and get to the bottom of things in our preview...
Sunderland Team News
It looks very much like being a case of 'as you were' as there isn't any fresh injury news according to Martin O'Neill himself at his most recent press conference.
Into midfield and you'll find Seb Larsson manning the right wing, a much more encouraging Lee Cattermole in the middle partnering David Vaughan, whilst Kieran Richardson will be looking to do damage down the left.
Up front there's no reason why it won't be the same combination of Nicklas Bendtner and Stephane Sessegnon. Sess was recently talked up by O'Neill as being a striker and he thinks he could solve some of our problems, so look to the same formation that worked at QPR with Bendtner dropping deep and Sess being the one to hassle and hurry defenders.
Everton Team News
Everton have been been pretty much the same team for several years now, relatively good, relatively solid and generally a pain in the backside for us as they seem to get one over on us time and time again.
They've got a few injury problems have Everton, but nothing too major; Jack Rodwell, Seamus Coleman and Victor Anichebe the victims for this game, whilst the recently re-acquired Landon Donovan can't play until January.
The good news for us, or the bad news depending on how you look at things, is that Tim Cahill looks set to miss out despite all the injuries. Turns out he hasn't scored for the Blues in over a year. Please Tim, save it one more game before getting back on the goals track.
Everton will also be possibly the first team to play against us with a five man midfield, which should make things interesting. I know Blackburn by definition did but really that was 10-1-0 as far as tactics went.
The main concerns of mine will be not allowing whoever the extra man in midfield is to actually take advantage of that situation, and also keeping an eye on Royston Drenthe. A superb player, and an eye for goal, be it creatively or not. Everton have scored every 40 minutes when he's played, as opposed to every 156 minutes when he hasn't. Sadly for us, he looks like starting.
SAFC: Westwood; O'Shea, Brown, Bramble, Bardsley; Larsson, Cattermole, Vaughan, Richardson; Bendtner, Sessegnon
Everton: Howard; Hibbert, Heitinga, Jagielka, Baines; Neville, Felliaini, Osman, Drenthe, Bilyaletdinov; Saha
This week's classic is pertinent on two levels. Firstly it's the last time we beat Everton, sadly, and secondly it was also a Christmastime game. Back in December 2001, on a very snowy afternoon, and a relatively dull game, Claudio Reyna smacked in a winner to give us the win. Like I said, that's the last time we beat them. Paul Gascoigne lined up for the opposition. By God it's about time we beat them isn't it?
Get Rich Quick
Well unlike David Boyle I don't have some betting guru to go to and get some picks for the game so I'm going it alone. No passing of the theoretical buck here. So, my top tip for you all is to put a fiver of your Christmas money on Stephane Sessegnon opening the scoring at 7/1. Ok, so it's a fairly standard and boring bet, but I think it's a winner. He was magnificent at QPR, and hopefully he can give their back line as much hassle.
Song For Whoever
This week's song is a little bit funky. It's Kool And The Gang with "Victory" which is of course what we all want for Christmas...
A cracking tune I'm sure you'll agree. Plus at least it's not another bloody Christmas song.
I think this one still remains a very, very tough game. I'm looking at an early goal and some resolute defending to see us over the line 1-0. Sessegnon with the goal. Natch.
Ha'way The Lads