Sunderland-Everton Preview

Mid-table Everton will be anxious to get their late-season revival back on track as they face relegation-threatened Sunderland at Goodison Park on Saturday.

The Toffees (11-11-13) are 11th in the table on 44 points and had their six-match unbeaten run (5-1-0) end with a 3-2 loss at Aston Villa on Saturday.

Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku converted a penalty for Everton and England defender Phil Jagielka headed home a second goal from close range in the final minute, but a revitalised Villa were the better side and deserved to win.

Six days before their defeat at Villa Park, the Toffees beat Manchester United 3-0 at Goodison Park and manager Roberto Martinez has called on his players to repeat that performance against Sunderland.

Martinez is expecting a tough match against Sunderland, who took three crucial points from a 2-1 home victory over Southampton last weekend.

"It is very similar in that this is the peak time of Sunderland’s season," Martinez told the Everton website. "Their performance against Southampton was one of full concentration and full intensity. They play with a lot of attacking players on the pitch and their work rate is huge.

"We will have to be at our very best from the beginning to match that enthusiasm and attacking play. On top of that, we have to put things right after a disappointing result at the weekend so we have our own issues. We have two games left at Goodison and we need to match the level we showed against Manchester United."

The Black Cats (6-15-13) remain third from bottom despite last Saturday’s victory against 10-man Southampton. The Wearsiders, however, are only one point behind the two clubs above them, Hull City and Leicester City, with three matches to play.

Jordi Gomez converted penalties on either side of halftime to secure the much-needed victory against the Saints, who had James Ward-Prowse sent off for fouling Jermain Defoe.

Sunderland striker Danny Graham was full of praise for the calm and collected way Gomez converted both spot kicks.

"Special credit has to go to Jordi because it can’t have been easy taking those penalties, but he looked ice cool and we got the job done," Graham told the Sunderland website. "We need to stay focussed now and do what we have to do in training so we’re prepared for next weekend’s trip to Everton.

"We showed a lot of character because they leveled straight away and our captain – John O’Shea – had to come off, but we dealt with those set-backs very well and got the three points. We need to take all the positives from today’s performance and take them into next week’s trip to Everton."

The Toffees have defender Luke Garbutt available after a bout tonsillitis, while midfielder Aiden McGeady is close to a return to action following back trouble. Steven Pienaar misses out again with muscle fatigue, along with Bryan Oviedo and Darron Gibson, who are both out for the season with foot injuries.

Sunderland will be bolstered by the return of Steven Fletcher from a foot injury. Meanwhile, O’Shea (concussion) and Wes Brown (knee) will be assessed ahead of the match.

Everton have won their last four league games at Goodison Park, securing impressive victories over Manchester United, Burnley, Southampton and Newcastle.

These sides drew 1-1 at the Stadium of Light in November. Seb Larsson opened the scoring on a free kick 67 minutes in, but Leighton Baines equalised from the spot nine minutes later to earn the draw. Everton enjoyed 60 percent possession and held the Black Cats to just three shots on target.

Everton have a strong advantage in the all-time Premier League head-to-head, winning 14 of 27 meetings and outscoring the Black Cats 45-25. Sunderland have won seven times, and the sides have split the points on six occasions.