Sam Allardyce expects Everton to produce a strong reaction when they travel to play his Sunderland side in the Premier League on Wednesday.
Sunderland’s entertaining 3-2 victory over Chelsea on Saturday, combined with Newcastle United’s draw at Aston Villa and Norwich City’s loss to Manchester United, has put them on the brink of safety.
The Black Cats are one point clear of Newcastle having played a game fewer than their north-east rivals, while Norwich are four points behind and, like Allardyce’s men, have two games left to play.
A victory over Everton would therefore seal survival for Sunderland, who have only lost one of their last nine top-flight fixtures.
It could be a perfect time to play Everton after their miserable 3-1 defeat at champions Leicester City last time out left them 12th in the standings with only one win from nine games.
However, Allardyce is not taking anything for granted and will know Sunderland have won only once in their last 10 home league meetings with Everton, who also beat them 6-2 in November’s reverse fixture at Goodison Park.
“Everton have been criticised and I think there will be a reaction from Roberto Martinez and the players,” Allardyce said at his pre-match media conference.
“There will be an instinctive response from Everton so it is by no means a foregone conclusion and I hope people don’t think that because it will be anything but. They will try their best to spoil our evening.
“If we can secure another victory we are safe in the Premier League with one game to go, so it is obviously crucial for us to give as good a performance as we did against Chelsea.
“Everybody has been relaxed and enjoyed their day off, but now we have to focus on Wednesday’s big game against Everton. We want to provide another outstanding performance.”
Martinez’s job is reportedly under threat at Everton with supporters turning against him and he is desperate to see a turnaround before the end of the season.
“There is a lot riding on the game for us after the performance we had at Leicester,” the Spaniard said.
“We need to react and we need to perform in the highest possible level. I expect to have a performance on Wednesday.
“It is good that we have a game around the corner but the importance of our performance is as big as you could feel we had in any other day in the season.”
Martinez needs top scorer Romelu Lukaku to find his shooting boots again. The striker has not scored in his last seven Premier League appearances, his longest drought since January 2015 when he went eight without a goal.
Lamine Kone (thigh) is fit for Sunderland, meaning Billy Jones (hip) is their only absence.
Everton are expected to be without Gerard Deulofeu (knee) and Phil Jagielka (hamstring), while they will check on Gareth Barry (groin) and Seamus Coleman (hamstring) ahead of kick-off.
Key Opta stats:
– Sunderland have netted just six goals in their last 10 Premier League home matches against Everton
– Jermain Defoe only scored three goals in 17 Premier League games against Everton before joining Sunderland, but has scored in both games for the Black Cats against the Toffees.
– Two of the five occasions Everton have scored 6+ goals in a Premier League game have come against Sunderland (7-1 in November 2007 and 6-2 in November 2015).
– With 143 goals in total in the Premier League, Defoe is just one away from joining Robin Van Persie (144) as the joint 10th highest scorer in the competition.
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