Has Kevin Mirallas done enough to earn a recall to the starting XI with his goal against Leicester?
Having enjoyed the last three Boxing Days at home, Everton have been handed a trip back to the northeast for this year's post-Christmas fixture to face improving Newcastle United at St James's Park.
The Blues have been pit against the same two teams to close out the year as in 2014 but in reverse order, with Stoke City the visitors to Goodison Park on Monday.
Roberto Martinez will, of course, be hoping for a very different outcome this time around. Last year, the defeats to the Potters and the Magpies represented the middle of an awful run of four straight defeats over the festive period that represented the real examination of the Catalan's tenure. At the time, there were fears that Everton could get sucked into a relegation dogfight but the ship was eventually righted and Martinez steered his side to an eleventh-place finish.
This year, Martinez is facing another stern test of his managerial abilities; the goal drought and dysfunction in the attacking side of his squad has been addressed with better service to Romelu Lukaku – the Belgian was dropped for this fixture last year – and a welcome return to form from the striker but defensive frailties and an inability to press home their superiority means that the Blues are under-achieving now for different reasons.
A match-up with Newcastle would have been most welcome a month ago when Steve McClaren's side were a directionless shambles but having won two of their last three since being hammered 5-1 by Crystal Palace – including wins at Tottenham and over Liverpool at home – have lifted them out of the bottom three and eased the pressure on their manager.
Despite that growing confidence, though, they remain vulnerable at the back and have a propensity to crumble under pressure which is something that Everton can target with the kind of strong start they made at Norwich. The key then, of course, will be to finish the job off by remaining tight at the back and keeping the likes of Georginio Wijnaldum, Ayoze Perez and Aleksander Mitrovic quiet. The Serb is almost certain to start given that Papisse Cisse looks likely to be ruled out with a hamstring injury.
Martinez, meanwhile, will likely name a similar side to the one that lost at Leicester last week but he could also be open to some changes as he searches for the key to turning recent performances into wins. James McCarthy should be very close to being fit again following a hip injury but in the manager's pre-match press conference, he grouped the Irishman with a quartet of returning players he expects to see come back over the next three weeks.
That might be a hint that McCarthy is still not quite ready and that Tom Cleverley will continue in defensive midfield alongside Gareth Barry. Should McCarthy make it, however, Cleverley could be moved to attacking left midfield at the expense of Arouna Kone who has struggled to reach levels he reached earlier in the campaign and looks ripe to be replaced.
Kevin Mirallas, of course, is the other player who could be named in Kone's role playing off Lukaku, something the fans would be happy to see and the Belgian certainly helped his prospects of a recall by scoring the consolation second goal in the 3-2 defeat to Leicester. Martinez has been reluctant to play two wingers in recent months, though, so if Mirallas is to feature, it could be at the expense of Gerard Deulofeu who had a frustating game against the Foxes. The Spaniard could be just the player to prey on the Toon's frail back line, though, so the team selection for this one is not as straightforward as it has been recently.
As Watford and Crystal Palace have shown, any team that can string some results together can take great strides towards the top four and it's imperative that Everton start doing that now before the fixtures become, on paper, that much more difficult again in the New Year. Back-to-back wins to finish 2015 would provide an excellent shot in the arm before the visit of Tottenham so all to play for in the next three days.
Kick off: 5.30pm
Referee: Lee Mason
Predicted line-up: Howard, Coleman, Stones, Funes Mori, Baines, Barry, Cleverley, Deulofeu, Barkley, Mirallas, Lukaku
Full coverage: ToffeeWeb Match Report
Reader Comments (54)
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1 Posted 26/12/2015 at 08:01:28
2 Posted 26/12/2015 at 08:12:14
Onto today's game... Delefeou had a somewhat frustrating game at Foxes that I agree but imo he is undroppable. You only need to look at the assist stats to see that.
We have no one else with that natural ability to create something from nothing or one piece of genuine class.
An early goal from a Romelu volley to open the scoring today and a 3-0 victory to the blues !
3 Posted 26/12/2015 at 08:13:55
COLEMAN STONES MORI BAINES
DEL BARKLEY KONE
4 Posted 26/12/2015 at 08:30:18
5 Posted 26/12/2015 at 08:31:23
6 Posted 26/12/2015 at 08:31:35
7 Posted 26/12/2015 at 09:12:28
8 Posted 26/12/2015 at 09:21:33
Macca (if fit) or Cleverley
9 Posted 26/12/2015 at 09:25:32
10 Posted 26/12/2015 at 09:27:32
Will the match go ahead given how bad the weather is going to be up there today?
12 Posted 26/12/2015 at 09:43:32
Colin I know you can't start two left footed centre backs but Mori was better than Stones last week, IMO, so why drop him.
13 Posted 26/12/2015 at 09:45:37
16 Posted 26/12/2015 at 10:01:41
We've had some good results here in recent years. An early goal would dampen their spirits. An early Xmas present would be not playing Kone, but I suppose that's too much to hope for.
18 Posted 26/12/2015 at 10:15:28
19 Posted 26/12/2015 at 10:16:01
20 Posted 26/12/2015 at 10:32:51
I prefer Colin's line-up to Neil's which is a Martinez line-up which is probably THE line-up toon will score and if we play the same way as we did against Leicester it'll be three points given not lost. COYB
21 Posted 26/12/2015 at 10:33:22
The Geordies have had a poor season but they've won at Tottenham and beaten Liverpool in the last few weeks, something we don't exactly do much, so there has been signs of life there.
If Mirallas and Naismith see no action over these next two games I'd safely say you've seen the last of them in Everton shirts, such a shame and as I say they will need replacing with likewise ready made Premier League experienced replacements.
22 Posted 26/12/2015 at 10:41:11
Mirallas should be given the nod over Kone who looks knackered !
23 Posted 26/12/2015 at 10:41:59
24 Posted 26/12/2015 at 10:43:53
Mirallas must play ahead of Kone and Lennon on for Deulofeu to run them into the ground for the last 20 mins.
Lukaku to score (from a corner) and Geordies to squelch off home with 10 minutes to go our travelling support ringing in their ears.
25 Posted 26/12/2015 at 10:47:13
26 Posted 26/12/2015 at 11:04:35
As much as I would like that result we just don't do clean sheets. We generally need at least 2 to win.
Could be high scoring today although with us you never know what's likely to happen.
27 Posted 26/12/2015 at 11:11:44
Another day of fixtures to look forward to and got to get my powers of diplomacy up to the mark as I work out how to quietly watch the game on my laptop while suffering at (or possibly escaping from) the in-laws. Should get a good result here but I am more nervous each week as to how the rub of the green will work out. We must be due some good luck and I reckon could go 2-0 or 2-1 today. Nerve wracking.
Would like to see Baines playing in front of Galloway pinging crosses in from the left for Rom while Del does the same from the right, and also Kev in behind Rom. Ain't going to happen but let's keep Rom scoring and take Vardy's record before the noise dies down!
Off topic but I have managed to get two tickets for the City game on the 6th and it's areal long haul up and back from Kent and I do not want to wipe my son and myself out by falling asleep on the motorway coming back. Does anyone know if Pat's guest house in Florence street is a) still operating and b) any good. Reviews look good. Other than that - does anyone know of a similar sort of place for b&b on the 6th, preferably with parking, which is in reasonable striking distance of Goodison. Any local nuggets or tips most welcome.
Cheers and COYB today. I'm really looking forward to us doing a "wWolfsburg" on City.
28 Posted 26/12/2015 at 11:21:50
McClaren will be telling his lot the very same thing. Suprisingly, given how shit Newcastle are, that if they win today they are only 3 points behind us in the table.
29 Posted 26/12/2015 at 11:22:35
30 Posted 26/12/2015 at 11:55:11
31 Posted 26/12/2015 at 12:07:48
To get anything we must have all 11 on the pitch playing for 90+ minutes - no strollers.
32 Posted 26/12/2015 at 12:12:15
This is one of the reasons why Everton keep drawing matches and not winning them. By all means, play Kone when Rom needs a rest during the match to save him for another day, but having him playing on the left wing when he has no pace, when he can't even fire a shot off with any confidence at the moment, does give the impression he is not even the second striker.
33 Posted 26/12/2015 at 12:29:23
Kev has waited a long time for a chance and this is the perfect time to give him a run in the side. The credit Kone got for his hat-trick has long since run out and he simply is offering very little beyond hard work right now. Drop him.
Don't think we'll win this tonight. Yet another score draw I think is on the cards.
34 Posted 26/12/2015 at 12:57:05
Slow boring build up play, poor defensively, playing players out of position, predictable in their play.
Their conclusion was it was unacceptable.
Don't think they've got to Everton yet but they'll probably run the same VT and just dub in Everton for Man Utd
35 Posted 26/12/2015 at 13:13:01
36 Posted 26/12/2015 at 13:16:40
37 Posted 26/12/2015 at 13:19:10
38 Posted 26/12/2015 at 13:23:12
A win today would be a real boost, but a loss would be a total kick in the balls, especially looking at the coming fixtures.
PS LVG not looking particularly pleased at Stoke. 2-0 at the moment
39 Posted 26/12/2015 at 13:45:56
40 Posted 26/12/2015 at 13:46:50
41 Posted 26/12/2015 at 13:51:10
42 Posted 26/12/2015 at 14:01:34
I'd take an ugly 0-1 right now. We need to start accumulating points.
43 Posted 26/12/2015 at 14:25:06
I think a 2. 2. draw is on the cards. I can't see us keeping a clean sheet, especially with these conditions.
Howard, isn't commanding in his area when the sun is cracking the flags, so only god knows how his handling will be in these wet conditions.
I hope Naismith, gets a game. He's my type of player. A pain in the are in the oppositions box. He is one player that isn't scared to get stuck in. And he might just edge it. Other than that, I think were looking at a draw.
44 Posted 26/12/2015 at 15:18:08
COYB! Desperately need a win no matter how it comes
45 Posted 26/12/2015 at 15:46:59
Deffo planning to stay up there on the Weds tho'.
46 Posted 26/12/2015 at 15:49:04
47 Posted 26/12/2015 at 15:57:31
48 Posted 26/12/2015 at 15:59:33
49 Posted 26/12/2015 at 16:05:33
Barry has been good this season and Baines is a top player coming back from a serious injury. Howard is a joke, I don't know how you can lump those two in with him.
50 Posted 26/12/2015 at 16:19:01
If we are not careful, well be doing exactly the same as we did this time last year and sleepwalk into a relegation battle.
At the moment it feels likes it's only us and three or four others that actually aren't winning.
51 Posted 26/12/2015 at 16:33:43
52 Posted 26/12/2015 at 16:35:11
No Kone thank fuck.
53 Posted 26/12/2015 at 16:37:37
Its a chance for Lennon and Mirallas to push Deulofeu for a starting berth.
54 Posted 26/12/2015 at 16:42:29
55 Posted 26/12/2015 at 16:43:11
56 Posted 26/12/2015 at 16:50:19
57 Posted 26/12/2015 at 16:52:09
58 Posted 27/12/2015 at 06:43:50
After watching the first two televised Premier League matches I realized we were up against it. In an effort to keep things flowing, referees were turning a blind eye to much of the rough stuff. Indeed, our away game to Spurs saw them get away with murder. Cleverley was crippled by Dier and their other defenders took no prisoners.
Right now we are sitting ducks to big, strong mobile outfits and we'll need to harden up in every area. The officials will offer no help.
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