Verdict: Home win
Best Odds: 3/4
Following the impressive comeback against Chelsea, Sunderland finally have matters in their own hands as a win over Everton would see them clinch Premier League survival. The Toffees continued to slip in the overall standings as they were soundly beaten by new champions Leicester City and it remains to be seen whether they can spoil the party for the Black Cats instead.
The thing about Sunderland is that while they may not be the most impressive side involved in the relegation tussle, they have become masters of winning all-important gamers during the business end of the season. Buoyed by the excellent support from the stands, the Black Cats are able to defeat much stronger sides thanks to incredible energy and determination, and their 3-2 triumph over last year’s champions Chelsea was a perfect proof. Sam Allardyce and his men knew they would be in all sorts of problems in case of any other result apart from victory, and things did not look well as they twice went behind to revived Blues side. However, team’s character shone in the second period and with a little help from Chelsea defenders, Sunderland were able to complete the comeback and record a victory that saw them leapfrog bitter rivals Newcastle United in the standings. That means that the Black Cats need one more win to survive the current campaign and what better way to do that than against out-of-sorts Everton. The reality is that the Toffees are superior in quality, but based on the teams’ latest performances, the hosts are rightly considered odds-on favourites here.
French defender Lamine Kone is expected to be fit to face Everton after shaking off a minor knock, meaning that John O’Shea will again have to wait for his chance on the bench.
Talented winger Duncan Watmore is pushing for a starting berth, with disappointing Jan Kirchhoff likely to be dropped from the starting XI.
Considering the quality of players at his disposal, Roberto Martinez has clearly failed to keep the results respectable this season and it is hardly surprising to see the fans slowly turning against him. The Toffees may not have such a big squad to choose from, but they’ve got some of the hottest Premier League talent in John Stones, Ross Barkley, Romelu Lukaku and Seamus Coleman, so they don’t really have an excuse for disappointing performances. Everton fans probably didn’t think the team could do worse than last season’s 11th-place finish, but the Toffees currently sit in 12th and could drop few more positions if they fail to win any of their remaining games. It is perfectly clear that the team are going through a very rough patch at the moment, having won just one of last nine fixtures in all competitions, and they will also feel disappointed to have missed the opportunity to make it to the FA Cup final. And with Everton completely outclassed by new champions Leicester City last time out, chances are they will not be able to match revived Sunderland on Wednesday evening.
Ramiro Funes Mori is available for selection after completing a three-match suspension, while Seamus Coleman and Gareth Barry could return to the side.
However, the likes of Phil Jagielka, Gerard Deulofeu and Tyias Browning remain in the infirmary and are unlikely to play again this season.
Key Factors to Consider
- Sunderland won three of last six matches vs Everton (D1 L2)
- Under 2.5 goals were scored in five of their last six meetings
- Sunderland lost one of last nine league fixtures (W2 D6)
- Everton failed to win in five straight away games (D2 L3)
- Sunderland will secure survival with any win
Sunderland showed a great deal of character to twice come from behind and defeat star-studded Chelsea side and they can be trusted to get the job done against out-of-form Everton as well. This season cannot seem to end quickly enough for the Toffees, who are not exactly in the best shape to try and spoil the party for the Black Cats.
Verdict: Home win
Best Odds: 3/4