The Big Match Tactical View: Everton v Sunderland

Romelu Lukaku will lead Everton's attack
Romelu Lukaku will lead Everton's attack
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The Premier League is now all about the relegation battle - and the weekend starts with Sunderland attempting to haul themselves out of the dropzone. Michael Cox looks at the tactics, while Alan Thompson provides the betting lowdown...

"Everton have won their past four home matches, while Sunderland haven’t won on the road in eight."

Back Everton to win 2-0 at 10.09/1

Everton v Sunderland
Saturday, 12:45
Live on BT Sport 1

Match Odds: Everton 1.834/5, Sunderland 5.39/2, The Draw 3.814/5.

Sunderland are kicking off the Premier League weekend with this Saturday lunchtime kick-off - and Dick Advocaat's men will consider it an ideal opportunity to put pressure upon their relegation rivals. A victory at Goodison Park, and Sunderland would leapfrog Hull, Leicester, Newcastle and Aston Villa - having played the same number of games.

Last weekend's narrow 2-1 victory over Southampton, thanks to two Jordi Gomez penalties, means Advocaat is unlikely to make significant changes to his side. John O'Shea is a slight injury doubt but should be declared fit - Wes Brown, meanwhile, could be fit to return alongside him.

Roberto Martinez has a couple of selection dilemmas, however. Ross Barkley will be keen to return to the side having missed last weekend's 3-2 defeat to Aston Villa, and could replace the ineffectual Steven Naismith in the number ten position. Leon Osman is another candidate for that role, while Steven Pieenar could return from injury, but is unlikely to make the starting XI.

Looking at the game tactically, the most interesting area will probably be out wide. Advocaat has been using a system featuring three centre-forwards spread across the pitch, and is likely to continue with the trio of Jermain Defoe, Danny Graham and Connor Wickham.

That suggests Sunderland will offer a big goal threat - even if none of them have been prolific over the past couple of seasons - but the greater question will be about how they defend against Everton's full-backs. Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman both love flying forward into attack, and are encouraged to get forward regularly by manager Martinez.

If Defoe and Wickham don't have the discipline required to get back, Everton could run riot down the flanks.

The home side's wingers, probably Aaron Lennon and Kevin Mirallas, are both direct players who like stretching the play, so expect Patrick van Aanholt and Billy Jones to remain in position rather than pushing forward themselves.

The midfield battle will probably be physical, but not particularly exciting. Lee Cattermole, predictably, is the Premier League's most-booked player this season and will depend upon Gomez and Sebastian Larsson to get up and down the pitch, pressing Everton's midfielders. Gareth Barry is likely to sit deep, with James McCarthy getting forward more to support Romelu Lukaku.

Sunderland's most likely route to goal might be from set-pieces. Larsson is a free-kick specialist, whether crossing the ball or shooting direct for goal, while Gomez proved his penalty expertise last weekend.

Meanwhile, with three strikers Sunderland should have plenty of penalty box presence, and considering the way Everton failed to deal with Christian Benteke last weekend, it wouldn't be a surprise to see a Sunderland player nodding in from a corner. 6'3 Wickham, with two goals in his last three games, could be a decent First Goalscorer bet.

This will be an uphill task for the away side, however. Everton have won their past four home matches (and they've been leading at half-time in each of them, too) while Sunderland haven't won away on the road in eight.

Last week's victory was important for Sunderland, but was hugely influenced by James Ward-Prowse's unfortunate red card at the start of the second half. They're not playing particularly good football, and Everton should outplay them and win relatively comfortably. A 2-0 home win, at 10.09/1, would represent good value.

Recommended Bet
Back Everton to win 2-0 at 10.09/1

The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson

Sunderland pulled of the great escape last season when with five games to go they were bottom of the league with 26 pts and looking certainties to be relegated, having to play away at Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United. They finished the season 14th in the league with 38 pts, five points clear of the relegation places.

Sunderland’s repeat escape mission has already started with the home victory against arch rivals Newcastle, and since then they have lost only one and scored in every game. With all the teams around them winning however, last week ’s win over Southampton was vitally important, but they still remain in the dropzone.

Everton are in decent end of season form, despite having little to play for. They have lost only one of their last seven starts, the defeat coming last week away at Aston Villa (3-2), four of the games in that sequence were at Goodison where they won them all, scoring eight goals and conceding none. They are unbeaten at home in their last eight, no side has won there in 2015.

It is so tight at the bottom of the Premier League that a win here for Sunderland in this first game of the weekend would actually see them rise to 14th in the table. Albeit, temporarily but it would apply a bit more pressure on the teams around them playing afterwards, Anything less than all three points though would see them remain third from bottom and no doubt a huge sigh of relief from the four clubs they could potentially have leapfrogged.

Dick Advocaat still has to take his side to Arsenal and Chelsea this campaign, so unless lightening strikes twice and Sunderland can secure end of season wins against the Premier League elite, then surely a win here is a must. However, no club has drawn more home games than Everton this season (7) and no club has drawn more away games than Sunderland (8)

I will be backing 1-1 in the Correct Score market @ 8.615/2 and having a saver for that stake on Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.166/5.

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