Everton Preview - Away, December 26
SUNDERLAND HOST Everton on Boxing Day as they search for a third win in four games under the stewardship of Martin O'Neill.
The Toffees have failed to set the Premier League alight so far this season but still sit in the relative comfort of 11th place.
It's been the usual story for David Moyes side; suffering from a slow start, a lack of transfer activity and without a proven goalscorer, progress was always going to be stunted.
The loss of £14.5m of talent hasn't helped the Merseysider's cause either, with Yakubu, Jermaine Beckford and Mikel Arteta all moving on over the summer.
Tim Cahill's apparent drop in form has not helped Everton's cause either, the experienced Australian leading the line for several seasons now. Louis Saha continues to have injury issues which restrict his first-team participation. Clearly a top talent, the French striker has scored just twice this season - one less than young Geek forward Apostolos Vellios.
Indeed the only permanent summer signing was that of veteran American goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann who arrived on a free from Wolves to provide experienced backup to Tim Howard and Jan Mucha.
Moyes was able to make two late loan signings however with Roysten Drenthe coming from Real Madrid and Denis Stracqualursi from Tigres.
Dutchman Drenthe's impact at Goodison Park has been instantly impressive with two goals from his first four starts for the club. However, with a further six appearances from the substitutes bench, the former Netherlands U21 international has not been a regular. A stunning goal against Wigan in his second home game quickly endeared the tempestuous full-back-cum-winger-cum-forward to the Everton faithful in a 3-1 win.
Another player to get the supporters off their feet is Seamus Coleman, a product of the club's famed academy setup. The 23 year-old Irishman made his breakthrough in English football on loan with Blackpool in 2009 with a nine-game loan spell. Since then the full-back-cum-wing-back has gone on to become a first-team regular for the Toffees. Pacey, and not afraid to take his marker on, the Donegal-born winger has good crossing ability too.
In the centre of a very strong midfield unit is Jack Rodwell, a man coveted by Chelsea amongst others if reports are to be believed. Another product of the club's academy setup, Rodwell has really imposed himself on the first team this season, prompting interest from the Londoners. Comfortable at centre-half or centre-back, the England U21 international is enjoying one of his best season in front of goal with two already this season to double his career goal tally for the Evertonians.
Moyes will be without striker Victor Anichebe, whilst Rodwell and Coleman are unlikely to be available in time following hamstring and thigh problems.
Sunderland will be without Michael Turner until January meaning Titus Bramble continues alongside Wes Brown. Nicklas Bendtner should retain his place up front after scoring at QPR in midweek.
Sunderland: Westwood; O'Shea, Brown, Bramble, Bardsley; Larsson, Cattermole (c), Vaughan, Richardson; Sessegnon; Bendtner.
Everton: Howard; Hibbert, Heitinga, Jagielka, Baines; Gueye, Neville (c), Osman, Fellaini, Drenthe; Saha.