Is there even a point to this fixture for the Black Cats anymore? The last time Sunderland won at Everton I was six years old, full of hope and dreams and optimism. Now, I'm twenty-two, full of remorse and bitterness and pessimism. It's been sixteen years since that cold November afternoon when Craig Russell scored one and Mickey Bridges bagged a brace. This can't finally be the year we revisit that victory...can it?
Sunderland Team News
Following last weekend's defeat at Aston Villa, Martin O'Neill's woes were compounded with news of knocks to both Carlos Cuellar and Danny Rose. Thankfully, both have recovered in time for tomorrow's tie, though Phil Bardsley remains a doubt with a muscle strain.
Elsewhere there is little new news for the Black Cats as far as injuries are concerned - though David Meyler's departure to Hull City on loan means his spot on the bench has opened up.
Everton Team News
The home side are almost entirely devoid of injury worries this weekend - only midfielder Darren Gibson, who injured his groin in September, is unavailable for selection. David Moyes will thus be able to stick with what has been a well settled team so far this term, and one that will be buoyed by Leon Osman's long deserved call-up to the England squad yesterday.
Sunderland: Mignolet; Bardsley, O'Shea, Cuellar, Rose; Larsson, Cattermole, Gardner, Johnson; Sessegnon; Fletcher.
Everton: Howard;Coleman, Heitinga, Jagielka, Baines; Osman, Neville; Mirallas, Pienaar Fellaini; Jelavic
Key Matchup: Lee Cattermole Vs Marouane Fellaini
Five goals in the opening nine games of this season tells its own story for Marouane Fellaini. The lofty Belgian has always been an standout performer for The Toffees since his arrival on Merseyside four years ago, but manager Moyes' decision to use him in a more advanced role this term has paid dividends. Fellaini has already matched his goals total for the entirety of last season, and surpassed the two seasons prior to that.
As a result, though Everton boast an abundance of talent, it is surely he who will be the biggest threat to Sunderland come Saturday afternoon. Playing off lead striker Nikica Jelavic, Fellaini excels at receiving diagonal balls from his full-backs, as well as creating space for himself in front of - and oftentimes, between - the opposition's central defensive pairing. As a result, Lee Cattermole will have his hands full, being tasked with the job of keeping Fellaini quiet. If he fails, Sunderland will prolong their torrid record at Goodison Park.
Recent Form: WDDDD
Win: Everton 3-1 Southampton (Osman 25, Jelavic 32, 38; Ramirez 6)
Draw: Wigan Athletic 2-2 Everton (Kone 10, Di Santo 23; Jelavic 11, Baines 87 (pen))
Draw: QPR 1-1 Everton (Hoilett 2; Julio Cesar 33 (OG))
Draw: Everton 2-2 Liverpool (Osman 22, Naismith 35; Baines 14 (OG), Suarez 20)
Draw: Fulham 2-2 Everton (Howard 7 (OG), Sidwell 90; Fellaini 55, 72)
Last Time Around: Everton 4-0 Sunderland, 09/04/12
In hindsight, it was hardly a surprising result. Yet, at half-time, Sunderland remained level. They had been second best in the opening half, no argument, but they had held onto a clean sheet with resolve, and hopes were high that they could go on to wrest three points from the side that dumped them out of the FA Cup less than two weeks prior.
Those hopes were soon obliterated. Five minutes after half-time Magaye Gueye slotted home the rebound from Leon Osman's effort, before a quick double of curled efforts from Steven Pienaar and then Osman himself secured the points for the Evertonians. Without main striker Nikica Jelavic the Blues had looked wasteful in the first half; no such woes befell them in the second. With ten minutes remaining, Victor Anichebe knocked home a fourth, leaving Sunderland fans wishing they could forever cross 'Everton (Away)' off their future fixture lists.
The Ref: Lee Mason
At first glance, Lee Mason's record this season suggests a referee who courts entertainment at every opportunity. In just nine games this term, the 41-year-old from Bolton has dispensed 40 yellow cards and awarded no fewer than seven penalty kicks. That record, however, is inflated by two anomalous games. In each of his last three games, Mason has pointed to the spot on three occasions; first during Chelsea's ridiculous 5-4 League Cup victory over Manchester United last week (a game which also saw nine yellows dished out) and then just two days later in the Championship draw between Brighton and Leeds United.
Mason last took charge of the Black Cats in September's 1-1 draw at West Ham, where he booked Craig Gardner. Sunderland will have few good memories of the last time they saw Mason, as that game was one in which Kevin Nolan scored an equaliser deep into injury time. Mind, their Evertonian hosts will share their sentiments. The last time Mason took charge of them was also in September, during their 1-2 League Cup defeat at Leeds. Johnny Heitinga, Bryan Oviedo and Maroune Fellaini all found their way into the referee's notebook that evening.
What The Managers Said
I could be happier, but I am really pleased with the way the players have performed, they have done a good job so we are asking them to keep it going. The next period is up to Christmas time and we will make a judgement after that as to how we have done.
Everton are going strongly at this moment in time - they're having as good a start to the season as they have ever have - but does that mean that great start will continue?
When you've got a bad record, maybe there's something in it but when that happens it is up to the football club to change that.
Roker Report Predicts
A defeat. Obviously.