Chris Young’s verdict: It doesn’t HAVE to be this way!

Have your say

YOU could write the script now.

Everton do relatively little to threaten the Sunderland goal and then up pops the miraculously healed Tim Cahill to seal the points, move the Toffees to within touching distance of the top half of the table and extend the losing streak of the visitors.

At no other ground in the country is there such a sense of inevitably for Sunderland supporters.

Not since Craig Russell and Michael Bridges found the net in December, 1996, have Sunderland tasted victory at Goodison Park and they have endured some harrowing afternoons on Merseyside since.

In the subsequent 10 outings, the Black Cats have conceded 28 goals, culminating in last season’s meek surrender.

The shoddy record at the Stadium of Light has only served to reinforce the image of Everton as Sunderland’s bogey team and Cahill as their bogey player with seven in 10 against the Black Cats.

How Steve Bruce could do with Sunderland finally ending their Goodison curse.

The games against the two Merseyside clubs are surely the most winnable of the next four and Sunderland can hardly afford to head to the Emirates in eight days after a fourth successive loss.

Yes, the final seven games of the season should produce a healthy haul in an attractive run-in on paper.

But Sunderland still need to pick up points over their next four outings to stay in touch with Liverpool and ensure they are not catapulted down the table.

Bolton and, more worryingly, Newcastle have already managed to banish the breathing space Sunderland once possessed from the chasing pack and the moans and groans will start to be heard if the Magpies overtake Bruce’s side by tomorrow tea-time.

Sunderland certainly shouldn’t be overawed against an Everton side who have been notoriously inconsistent this season.

They showed at the Stadium of Light last November that they are still a dangerous beast – a view reinforced by their shoot-out win at Chelsea last weekend.

But the Toffees have been prone to freezing this year, as they did at Bolton in their last Premiership outing.

The absence of a regular scorer has not helped even though Cahill has chipped in a healthy nine times.

But despite missing a month of action with his Asia Cup commitments, Cahill remains Everton’s top scorer with Moyes’ frontmen suffering from a lack of consistency.

Jermaine Beckford has taken time to adapt to the gulf between League One and the Premier League while Louis Saha has only just sprung to life with six in his last four league outings, including four against Blackpool.

The injury-prone Saha should recover from a facial complaint to face Sunderland while it would undoubtedly be a major boost for the Black Cats if an ankle problem rules Cahill out.

Sunderland have injury problems of their own with none of their long-term absentees ready to feature while Craig Gordon may succumb to the knee discomfort sustained on international duty.

Replacing Gordon with Simon Mignolet will have been on Bruce’s mind anyway though after the Scot’s costly errors over the last three games.

Elsewhere, Ahmed Elmohamady is in line to start in place of Steed Malbranque to combat the threat of Leighton Baines from left-back.

Baines has been enjoying a purple patch and Sunderland showed at Chelsea with their handling of Ashley Cole, what can be achieved by stopping the opposition full-backs getting forward.

Even if Sunderland frustrate Everton sufficiently to grind out a point, it would still be a welcome boost for Bruce.

But the confidence gleaned from Stamford Bridge may provide the spark which Everton have been missing and inspire the charge towards the top half.

It wouldn’t fit Sunderland’s story on Merseyside if it were anything else.

Verdict: Home win