GARY ROWELL: Sunderland can test suspect Everton defence

Gary Rowell
Gary Rowell
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EVERTON’S Europa League commitments tonight will hopefully give Sunderland a slight advantage this weekend.

It’s well documented that teams who play Thursday night in Europe, tend to suffer in the following Premier League game and even with our win over Palace, we’re still in trouble, so I’ll take any advantage we can possibly get.

After a slow start to the season, Everton are up to ninth now and are good enough to climb higher than that, so a tough 90 minutes is in store.

Players like Romelu Lukaku, Samuel Eto’o and Ross Barkley are obvious goal threats and Everton’s 19 goals so far in the Premier League is a total only bettered by three teams – Chelsea, Manchester United and Southampton (who had one game in particular which boosted their tally).

Another aspect of Everton’s play which Sunderland will have to look out for is the attacking threat posed by their full-backs Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman.

Both have goals in them and provide assists, and I can’t think of another pair of full-backs in the Premier League that get forward as much as those two, whose runs from deep are so hard to pick up.

However, Everton are not the perfect team and they do have weaknesses, especially in defence where they have leaked goals this season.

The 17 they have conceded so far is the most in the top half of the table, so if Sunderland can put them under pressure, they should get chances and hopefully they’ll fall to the in-form Steven Fletcher.

Sunderland should go into this game with confidence after that priceless win at Crystal Palace, but the fall-out was a serious injury to Patrick van Aanholt and a suspension to Lee Cattermole – two of their most consistent players this season. Both will be missed on Sunday.

Their absence, added to an already lengthy injury list, doesn’t make Gus Poyet’s job any easier.

But going into any home game on the back of a crucial away victory always brings a feel-good factor, not only to the players, but also the fans.