Everton Preview (A) - November 10
SUNDERLAND HEAD to Merseyside this Saturday to face David Moyes` Everton, the club`s bogey side in recent years.
The Black Cats` recent record against the Toffees is nothing short of appalling, with the Goodison Park side last losing to the Lads in December 2001 courtesy of a solitary strike from American midfielder Claudio Reyna 13 minutes from time.
In the nearly 11 years that have followed, Sunderland have garnered just five points from sixteen Premier League meetings.
Even last season Martin O`Neill`s side were humbled in their F.A Cup Quarter-final clash; going down 4-0 at the Stadium of Light after securing a creditable 1-1 draw at Goodison in the initial tie.
Perennial slow-starters, the Toffees have begun the season in imperious form and are currently perched in the lofty position of 4th after the first 10 games.
Central to this early success has been the form of maverick Belgian midfielder, Maroune Fellaini.
The central midfielder, still only 24, was snapped up by Moyes for £15m four years ago in what looked to be a grossly-inflated transfer fee at the time. Four years down the line and with the benefit of hindsight, it looks a snip with the world`s top clubs all poised to pounce in January.
Born in Belgium to Moroccan parents, the 6`4 midfielder turned out for the north African country at U18 level before switching to represent Belgium`s U19`s, U21`s and now full side, for whom he has earned 37 caps scoring five times.
A powerful, box-to-box midfielder, Fellaini will not remain on Merseyside much longer if he keeps up the impressive start he has made to this campaign.
Another equally important and oft-spoken about figure is left-back Leighton Baines.
At 27 the former Wigan Athletic defender is seen as the natural heir to Ashley Cole`s crown in the England senior side and has 12 full caps to his name.
The Kirkby born left-footer came through Liverpool`s academy set-up before making his name with Wigan Athletic, achieving promotion to the then Division One before reaching the Premier League in 2005, making 145 appearances for the club in the process.
Comfortable going forward & reliable from set-pieces the 5`7 defender has as sweet a left peg as anyone in the top-flight.
Up front Croatian international Nikica Jelavic has an enviable scoring record for the Toffees, bagging 13 from 22 league appearances after signing from Rangers in January.
Another canny piece of business from Moyes, the 27 year-old 25-cap international cost a mere £5m after smashing in 30 goals in 45 league games for the Gers during an 18-month spell at Ibrox.
A constant menace, the 6`2 hitman is noted for his innate ability to finish first-time; always economical on touches.
Everton will be without the services of former Sunderland target Darron Gibson, the Irish midfielder sidelined with a thigh problem. Sunderland are once more without Wes Brown.
Everton: Howard; Neville (c), Heitinga, Jagielka, Baines; Coleman, Osman, Fellaini, Pienaar; Miralles & Jelavic.
Sunderland: Mignolet; Bardsley, O`Shea, Cuellar, Rose; Cattermole (c), Colback; Larsson, Sessegnon, Johnson; Fletcher.
Mr L Mason.