Everton vs. Sunderland: Three Players to Watch

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MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 11: Ross Barkley during the Premier League match between Middlesbrough and Everton at the Riverside Stadium on February 11, 2017 in Middlesbrough, England. (Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images)

When Everton last played Sunderland in September, they won 3-0 with Romelu Lukaku netting a hat trick. In that game, Sunderland featured one player with ties to Everton. Led by manager David Moyes, Jack Rodwell was the lone ex-Everton player to make the match-day squad.

Since that match, Sunderland have added two more former Everton players, Bryan Oviedo and Darron Gibson, who were purchased in the January window. Currently, there are six players on Sunderland who have played for Everton.

Everton vs. Sunderland: Three Players to Watch

Considering current form and their positions in the Premier League table, Everton should be able to find a victory. However, last week Everton drew a poor Middlesbrough team, so anything is possible. Everton will be missing Muhamed Besic, Yannick Bolasie, and Dominic Calvert-Lewin. If Everton want to make Europe next year, they need all three points from this fixture.

Sunderland are coming of a 4-0 drubbing by Southampton. Victor Anichebe, Lee Cattermole and Jan Kirchhoff all will not be fit for the match. However, Jordan Pickford will play a role in the game, and will most likely start.

Ross Barkley

In their last match, Everton struggled to complete the passes that might unlock Middlesbrough’s defence. This lack of creativity caused them to draw the game. Usually, that creativity comes from Ross Barkley.

Barkley is at his best when he is surging forward on the counter-attack. When teams keep a defensive shape, he can certainly struggle. Ronald Koeman needs to help him figure out what to do in that situation, as Sunderland will most likely have this type of approach on Saturday. If they want to win this match and continue to make a push for Europe, Barkley will need to step his game up.

Jermaine Defoe

This year Sunderland have scored 24 goals, and Jermain Defoe has been involved in many of them, with 14 goals and two assists. The key to stopping Sunderland begins with stopping Defoe.

If he can be contained, then the rest of the attack will likely not be as effective. Everton’s centre-backs will have difficulties dealing with Defoe. They will need to be in constant communication with the two defensive midfielders in order to shut him down.

Romelu Lukaku

One of the leading scorers in the Premier League with 16 goals, Lukaku has been on fire for most of the season. However, in the last game he was often left isolated at the top of the formation. Under the current system, Lukaku needs to increase his work rate in the games where this takes place. By holding the ball up effectively, he can spring Barkley on the attack towards the opposition’s goal. He also needs to be more of a presence on set-pieces, especially when the other team using a more defensive alignment.

Adding these aspects to his skillset will tremendously help his game in the long run. This match is a great opportunity for Lukaku to work on these attributes, as Sunderland’s defence have struggled during the current campaign. Against this side, manager Ronald Koeman will be expecting a productive outing from the Belgian international.

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