The second match of the festive period sees us back at Goodison for a match against this seasons surprise package, Southampton. The Saints have exceeded all expectations with their fantastic football and tremendous work ethic and will provide stiff opposition for Roberto Martinez’ Everton, especially with Blues missing the influential duo of Tim Howard and Gareth Barry due to suspension.
After the disappointment of losing to Sunderland on Boxing Day, Everton will be keen to get back to winning ways as quickly as possible. The Blues will be once again backed by a sellout crowd and the players must learn to cope with the growing expectations among the supporters base. The team did appear weighed down by the increased hope within the crowd, with the talk of titles and Champions League football placing huge pressure on the shoulders of some of Everton’s more inexperienced players. Roberto Martinez has already shown he is adept at motivating his squad and there is no doubt that Everton will bounce back in a positive manner.
Everton will be buoyed by their excellent home record against Southampton, with just two defeats in the last 40 years to the Saints. In that time Everton have recorded some impressive wins, including a seven-one victory during Joe Royle’s tenure and a six-one victory in 1986 as the Blues narrowly missed out on the title to Liverpool. The highlights of both these victories are included at the foot of this match preview.
In last seasons corresponding fixture Everton emerged victorious, coming from behind to win three-one with goals from Leon Osman and a Nikica Jelavic double. Later in the season, Everton travelled to St Mary’s in Pochettino’s first match in charge, with the sides cancelling each other out in a nil-nil draw.
For the first time this season, Roberto Martinez will be forced to make significant changes to his starting eleven. Leighton Baines is expected to be declared fit to resume his left back duties, which could release Bryan Oviedo to play further forward. Gareth Barry is forced to sit this one out through suspension, with either Johnny Heitinga or Leon Osman likely to deputise in a more withdrawn midfield role. Joel Robles will certainly play in-goal with Tim Howard suspended for one match following his sending off for a professional foul.
Elsewhere Martinez must decide whether to rest the out of form Belgium duo of Kevin Mirallas and Romelu Lukaku. The latter has certainly looked in need of a rest in recent weeks, but Martinez is expected to persist with him in the starting side, with the goal starved Nikica Jelavic the only viable alternative.
Possible Starting Team: Joel; Baines, Coleman, Jagielka, Distin; Heitinga, McCarthy, Barkley; Pienaar, Mirallas; Lukaku.
Everton 7-1 Southampton 1995-96 Premier League
Everton 6-1 Southampton 1985-86 First Division