The Blues were desperately unlucky in defeat to Chelsea on Sunday, seeing a run of three wins in four, and a seven match unbeaten spell come to an end. Thankfully for David Moyes though, a quick turnaround means that result doesn’t have to be dwelled upon, and Everton turn their focus straight St. James’ Park, where three points would be invaluable.
Alan Pardew’s side have most certainly felt the effects of playing Thursday night football in the Europa League. After finishing in the dizzy heights of fifth-place last season, The Magpies currently occupy fifteenth, and have lost eight of their last ten Premier League games.
Everton surrendered a one goal lead to be beaten by European Champions Chelsea on Sunday. The Toffees came out of the traps in style, playing at a tempo which their London counterparts could neither match, nor handle, exhibiting some rampant football, but a work-rate that could simply never be sustained. Steven Pienaar gave the hosts a second-minute lead after Victor Anichebe’s header hit the first of many a woodwork, but the effervescent Frank Lampard bagged either side of half-time to give Chelsea their first Goodison win in five attempts.
Newcastle travelled to the Emirates Stadium to play Arsenal last Saturday, where the eventual 7-3 scoreline did little to tell the tale of a match were the visitors gave their opponents a real run for their money. As the game headed into its 84th minute, only one goal separated the side’s, after Newcastle had three times responded to losing a goal. However, as legs got heavy and fresh-blood entered the game, Arsenal’s lack of a Boxing Day fixture told, and hat-trick hero Theo Walcott deservedly took most of the plaudits.
Marouane Fellaini will return for Everton after serving his three-match ban, while Phil Neville may also come back in after sitting out of the weekend’s defeat. Darron Gibson’s thigh injury could keep the midfielder out for up to a month, while Seamus Coleman, Tony Hibbert and Kevin Mirallas still inhabit that treatment room.
Danny Simpson becomes Newcastle’s latest injury woe after he limped out of the defeat to Arsenal with a broken toe. Jonas Gutierrez, Hatem Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye and Steven Taylor are also absent, as Alan Pardew’s squad is tested to its bare bones. Vurnon Anita will undergo a late fitness test.
This could be the night when we find out how seriously the current crop of Everton players should be taken when talking about Champions League qualification. St. James’ Park is a tough, tough place to go, under lights won’t make the task any easier, and The Toffees’ record there over the last decade backs that up to the hilt. Defeat to Chelsea was harsh, but if the players take as much heart from the performance as I hope the supporters did, and turn up in the North-East with the air of confidence they should, there’s no reason why Everton shouldn’t stroll straight back into the mix, and believe they can really do battle for fourth.