Everton vs Sunderland: Toffees looking to build on cup success

As Everton prepare to face Sunderland at Goodison Park on Saturday afternoon, they will be looking to push forward in the Premier League after progressing to the Capital One Cup quarter-finals in midweek.

Cup success

Spanish boss Roberto Martinez will be delighted with his side’s victory over Norwich City on Tuesday night – the Toffees progressing  4-3 on penalties after the sides could not be separated (1-1) in 90 minutes plus extra time.

It is an added boost of confidence for a side that have won just one of its last five games, with defeats against  Arsenal and  Manchester United in recent weeks – despite some promising performances.

“In the derby they were very good”

– Roberto Martinez

Martinez, speaking ahead of the visit from Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce, has spoken at length on the impact a new manager can have on a team’s performances, describing the Black Cats 3-0 Wear-Tyne derby win over Newcastle United as being “very good”. Indeed, Allardyce’s arrival has prompted a renewed sense of belief in Sunderland – who are struggling in 18th place in the league table, with just six points – but Martinez remains confident that all at Goodison “know the strengths of [the] Sunderland side”.

Weathered the storm?

Everton have had a tough run of fixtures to open their league campaign, and despite coming through relatively unscathed – with a good 3-1 victory over champions  Chelsea and sitting 11th in the Premier League table – Martinez knows that now is the time for performances to approve, and for the points to accumulate.

Sunderland’s visit will far from be an easy one for the Toffees, with confidence high after their comprehensive derby victory last weekend. Despite that, Sunderland’s vulnerabilities are there to be highlighted; the Black Cats still only have six points to their name this season, and still sit just inside the relegation places.

That there is an improved atmosphere around the Sunderland camp is undeniable, but the Everton faithful will remain confident that the Toffees can take a valuable three points on Sunday afternoon.

Squad news

Everton will have to face the visit of Sunderland without some major players, as captain Phil Jagielka remains sidelined with his knee injury, and influential right-back Seamus Coleman is a major doubt because of a stomach illness.

Roberto Martinez will welcome the return of Gareth Barry from suspension while Tim Howard will likely return as the manager reshuffles his squad after the victory over Norwich midweek.

Midfielder Gareth Barry returns from suspension while goalkeeper Tim Howard will be among the players to come back in after manager Roberto Martinez shuffled his pack for the win over Norwich. Muhammed Besic and Leighton Baines both returned to training on Friday.

Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce will have some important, late decisions to make on a number of injured players. Olva Toivonen (groin), Younes Kaboul (gron), John O’Shea (hamstring) are doubtful, while Fabio Borini remains a concern after his ankle issues. None of the four players have been in training this week.


Everton vs Norwich City: Toffees go looking for cup success

The games are coming thick and fast as we enter the testing winter period for English football, with no time for Roberto Martinez‘s Everton to rest on their laurels. The Toffees are back in action at Goodison Park on Tuesday night, as they prepare to face Norwich City in the Capital One Cup.

Martinez’s side fell to their third Premier League defeat of the season on Saturday evening, coming unstuck in a 2-1 defeat to in-form Arsenal – but there were plenty of positives to take from the game – and Everton gave a competitive display that bodes well for future fixtures.

Looking forward

The Toffees have had a tough start to the campaign but have come through relatively unscathed – 11th in the the league table and just four points adrift of the Europa League places. With Sunderland ahead at the weekend, a midweek win in the cup against Norwich could build the players’ confidence and prompt the start of a useful run of results.

“We need to win for the confidence of the team”

– Gerard Deulofeu

Gerard Deulofeu, Everton’s Spanish attacker, who, despite not managing to guide his side to a share of the spoils on Saturday, had a good game against Arsenal – providing an assist for Ross Barkley‘s goal, and missing a chance for an equaliser late on – believes it is imperative that Everton win “for the confidence of the team, and fans.” Citing his belief that “Everton need to win a cup”, the ex-Barcelona man highlighted the fact that the Toffees need to bounce back after disappointment in recent weeks – and this might be the perfect opportunity for them to do just that.

Alex Neil‘s Norwich side have lost three straight games in the Premier League, including a heavy 6-2 defeat at the hands of struggling Newcastle United – and a 1-0 loss at home to West Bromwich Albion – in recent weeks.  At present they sit just three points above the relegation zone, and Martinez will like his side’s changes against a club that have shipped 21 goals in the league this season.

Squad news

The Everton faithful will believe a quarter-final is more than on the cards come Tuesday night, but they will have get past Norwich without captain Phil Jagielka – after suffering a knee injury in the loss to Arsenal – and without Gareth Barry, who is suspended.

Youssouf Mulumbu is out with a metatarsal injury for Norwich, and Gary Hooper is doubtful with an ankle problem. For Martinez, Tom Cleverley (ankle) and Steven Pienaar (hamstring) could potentially return.


Arsenal vs Everton: Toffees look to bounce back against confident Gunners

Roberto Martinez’s Everton side will know that to take points away from the Emirates Stadium on Saturday evening will be a big ask. Arsenal have been in fine form of late and the players will be high in confidence as they prepare for the Merseyside club’s visit.

Bouncing back

After the Toffees slipped to a disappointing 3-0 defeat against Manchester United last weekend, the focus from Martinez has been on his players giving a “reaction” to the result; performing at their highest level in order to prove that their last game was merely a speed bump on the road to success this season.

On an emotional day at Goodison Park – where shortly before kick-off it was announced that ex-Everton manager and fan-favourite Howard Kendall had sadly passed away, Everton were as lethargic as their fans were subdued, and ultimately got caught napping in what was a comfortable performance from the Manchester side.

After an inquest into what went wrong last weekend, Martinez has rightly been keen to rally his troops and turn the focus on the trip to the Emirates this weekend – but he knows that a game against one of the Premier League‘s in-form sides will be by no means easy.

A tough test

“Arsenal are really well organised, a creative attacking force”

– Roberto Martinez

The Spaniard was quick to offer praise to the opposition this week, as he impressed upon the team the need for Everton to play at their best if they are to come away with a good result. Martinez described Wenger’s side as  “really disciplined and well organised” in their impressive 2-0 midweek Champions League win against Bayern Munich, and highlighted their “creative… attacking force going forward” in the 3-0 win over Watford.

Despite Arsenal’s impressive league campaign so far – which sees them sit second in the table behind Manchester City – Martinez will know his side are capable of holding their own, having only lost two games themselves in the league this season. The Everton boss will be hoping his side can hit their previous standard that saw impressive results such as the 3-1 win over stuttering champions Chelsea last month.

Of course history is against them: Everton have not won a fixture at Arsenal since their 2-1 win in January 1996 – thanks to goals from Graham Stuart and Andrei Kanchelskis. However, football is never played on paper, and the Everton faithful will believe they can get their Premier League campaign back on track come Saturday evening.

Provisional squads:

Arsenal: Cech, Monreal, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Bellerin, Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Ozil, Sanchez, Walcott, Macey, Gibbs, Giroud, Campbell, Debuchy, Chambers, Gabriel, Flamini.

Everton: Howard, Robles, Jagielka, Stones, Funes Mori, Coleman, Browning, Galloway, Oviedo, McCarthy, Barry, Barkley, Cleverley, Gibson, Osman, Lennon, Naismith, Deulofeu, Mirallas, Kone, Lukaku.

The Martian by Andy Weir

18007564So, a quick glance through the many 5-star reviews and positive comments from my friends  on Goodreads, suggests that my review is going to go down like a lead balloon. A disclaimer before we get started: I didn’t like much of the book at all, and I don’t understand the hype that surrounds it.

Let’s be honest: The Martian does have a terrifically cool premise. A super smart astronaut is left stranded on Mars after an accident and – despite being much better equipped to handle the situation than your average human, with his impressive skill-set – his chances of survival are minimal. In his own words, he’s pretty screwed. Still, he won’t take it lying down, and despite his hopeless circumstances he sets about building and cultivating what he can in order to give him a chance of staying alive. So far, so good.

The problem is, Andy Weir‘s book contains a central idea that promises so much – but then doesn’t deliver. I’ve heard various cries of this book being “unputdownable”, and indeed the Financial Times opines on the cover that it is “utterly nail-biting.” Hugh Howey announces that it is “white knuckle intense”, on the blurb. I can let you all know now that my nails are fully intact, and that my skin remains the same colour. I was, well… mostly bored.

I must clarify something: it isn’t the science. I’m all for complex texts that challenge your way of thinking. In fact, Weir should be congratulated for managing to make his book as accurate and factually correct as possible. However, The Martian loses its way a bit for it. Put across by Mark Watney – whose smugness and attitude is overbearing at times – I found myself essentially uninterested by his daily attempts to improve his situation. Then again, I don’t particularly like Robinson Crusoe so perhaps some of this was to be expected.

I think The Martian had it’s moments – some of the jokes were amusing – and it is kind of impossible to not have some kind of sympathetic thought about someone plunged into that situation. Yet the narrative style was one which I couldn’t get on with at all, and as a result I found myself not as invested in the story as I would’ve expected to be from a book of this nature. Plus: the novel always looked like it was going to limp to a disappointing conclusion from the outset.

It’s obvious this book wasn’t for me, so I’ll stop here and save you all some time. Overall, The Martian sets up a nice idea which it never quite delivers on. I often found the book monotonous and I couldn’t get myself invested in the story. On a lighter note: I am yet to see the film, but I think it could be something I would enjoy. It’s a story that – if done right – could come across wonderfully on the big screen.