With Christmas done and dusted for yet another year, we get back to footballing matters as Everton host Wigan Athletic at Goodison Park on Boxing Day. Both sides played on the weekend with contrasting results, Everton recorded a very hard fought and controversial 2-1 victory over West Ham, a match which saw 2 poor sending offs and a wrongly disallowed goal for Everton. For Wigan, some would say they also suffered at the hands of a poor decision from the officials losing 1-0 to Arsenal courtesy of a Mikel Arteta penalty. With the festive season well underway and with the games coming thick and fast, it is imperative to pick up as many points as possible as it does set a tone for the 2nd half of the season and both sides will have different reasons for the 3pts. For Everton, they need another 3pts in order to maintain the fight for that lucrative Champions League spot as they are tied with Arsenal, Tottenham and West Brom on 30pts. For the visitors, they are once again right in the thick of things at the wrong end of the table and find themselves entrenched in the relegation zone, so 3pts are of upmost importance.
Everton striker Victor Anichebe spoke about his return to first team football against West Ham following an injury layoff saying
‘At Everton you are always going to get chances. You always know that the manager is always going to need his players. At the moment, Felli and Kevin are out, but we have got other players who can come in and help the team, like we showed at West Ham. Hopefully we can keep progressing through this Christmas period and keep the momentum going.
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez had nothing but praise for Everton saying
‘We all know that Everton traditionally start seasons a little bit slowly and then finish at a very good level.But we can speak from our own experience. It will be our second game against Everton and in the first one, it was the best Everton side we have faced. This Everton side tick every box. They have been able to get consistently good results in this league and that allows you to be fighting for the top four positions. At Goodison Park they are unbeaten and it is one of the hardest places to visit in the Premier League. We are well aware of all that, but we feel we can match Everton on our day.’
Everton Team News:
Everton received a handy Christmas present in the form of Darron Gibson being allowed to play. Gibson was controversially sent off against West Ham on the weekend, however, Everton have appealed the decision, and with the hearing not until Thursday, he will be free to face the Latics. Victor Anichebe announced his return from a hamstring injury in fashionable style grabbing a goal in the 2-1 win over West Ham, a game which captain Phil Neville also returned. Everton will be without influential trio Marouane Fellaini, who is serving the 2nd of his 3 match ban, Kevin Mirallas who is out with a hamstring injury and Tony Hibbert who is out with a calf injury. Still no update on the fitness of right back Seamus Coleman however, who missed the West Ham match.
Possible Starting XI: Howard, Baines, Distin, Heitinga, Jagielka, Neville, Gibson, Osman, Pienaar, Anichebe, Jelavic
Player to watch: Leon Osman
The England and Everton man has enjoyed a stellar season to date, and with the absence of Kevin Mirallas and Marouane Fellaini stood up for Everton against West Ham and was man of the match. The Everton academy graduate has been under rated for many years, however this season he has taken his game to a new level and has become a consistent performer for Everton. With the Belgian duo once again missing, a lot of the creativity will fall on the head of Leon Osman. His ball control in tight situations is outstanding and coupled with his vision and passing is exactly what is needed to unlock the Wigan defence Shouldhe have a similar game to that of the West Ham game then Everton could be celebrating Boxing Day with 3pts
Wigan Team News:
For the Latics, the festive period is taking its toll. The injury list includes the likes of Watson, Miaychi, Alcaraz, Lopez and Crusat, all of whom will not feature against Everton. Influential midfielder James McCarthy is also a doubt with an ankle injury he picked up against Norwich. In some good news for the Latics, they could be set to regain captain Gary Caldwell after he returned to the bench against Arsenal on the weekend as well as Ivan Ramis who could feature against Everton.
Possible Starting XI: Al Habsi, Stam, Caldwell, Figueroa, Beausejour, Jones, McArthur, Gomez, Maloney, Di Santo, Kone
Player to watch: Arouna Kone
Settled into Premier League effortlessly really. In the first meeting between these two sides, Kone gave the Everton defence massive headaches with his combination of pace and power and will once again be a thorn in the Everton defence. Will be interesting to see what David Moyes will do in order to combat Kone, because Heitinga, who played against Heitinga has been known to struggle a bit against Kone type strikers and that was the case when these two sides met earlier in the year. Everton will have to limit his threat if they want the win.
Match Facts & Stats
1. This will be Everton first Boxing Day match at Goodison Park since a 2-0 victory over Bolton back in 2007. They are unbeaten in their last 5 Boxing Day matches.
2. Should Everton captain Phil Neville start for Everton, as expected, then it will be his 500th Premier League match. He will become the 7th play to reach that milestone.
3. Everton are unbeaten in the last 8 matches against Wigan, with 4 wins and 4 draws. The first fixture between the two sides this season finished 2-2
4. Everton are currently unbeaten in the last 12 home games, winning 8 of them.
5. Everton have also scored in 15 consecutive league matches, stretching back to September.
The win against West Ham will provide Everton a massive boost ahead of this game, confidence will be up and playing in front of the Goodison faithful is becoming harder and harder for the visiting sides. Missing the Belgian duo in Fellaini and Mirallas is a massive loss, but I still think this Everton side has enough to get past a tough Wigan side at Goodison Park and keep their impressive home run going. I am going to predict a 3-1 Everton win, with Jelavic, Osman and Baines (as he seems to always score against his former side) and Kone grabbing a consolation goal for the Latics. COYB!!! ANOTHER 3PTS IS VITAL IN THE HUNT FOR 4TH!!!!!