Baines scored a late equalizer against his old team in the first leg of this fixture - Stu Forster
This Boxing Day game marks the halfway point of the season for Everton - quite surprising for those of us expecting another slow start, but quite satisfying at the same time to be in the mix for a European spot too.
Merry Christmas everybody, hope you and your family and friends all received tonnes of Everton presents, and have a wonderful holiday today!!
Everton welcome eighteenth-placed Wigan Athletic for a very festive date on the Goodison calendar. The Boxing Day game is always very highly anticipated for the fans, and tomorrow should be no different. After a couple of stirring performances against Tottenham and West Ham have resulted in wins, the fan base have been awakened from their draw-induced slumber and should be in full voice for the game.
While midfielder Marouane Fellaini will still be serving a suspension and miss this game, David Moyes will have Darron Gibson for this game pending Everton's appeal to the FA following his red card against West Ham last weekend. Wracked by injuries in recent weeks, Moyes has been digging deep among the scant reserves to maintain Everton's style of play. The surprising returns of captain Phil Neville and Victor Anichebe provided some much-needed respite for his squad, and both can be expected to feature tomorrow too.
Meanwhile, Roberto Martinez's Wigan team is once again struggling in the first half of the season. Latics fans, much like the Toffees, have gotten used to this early slumping and watched breathlessly as their team came storming back to survive the drop last season. However, there is concern in some quarters that there might not be enough in the tank for yet another amazing recovery this time around. Wigan have only gained one point out of their last fifteen, scoring only three goals in those five games.
Team News -
For Martinez, captain and center back Gary Caldwell could return after being in the squad on Saturday. Fellow center back Ivan Ramis could also feature in the game. Star midfielder James McCarthy faces a late fitness test, while Antolín Alcaraz, Adrian Lopez, Albert Crusat, Ryo Miyaichi and Ben Watson all remain out with long term injuries.
Keys To The Game -
Everton haven't lost in their last eight games against Roberto Martinez's side, and it starts with keeping it simple. Four out of those eight times Everton conceded first and either battled back to win or draw. With Fellaini out Moyes went with a 4-4-2 formation last game and was reasonably pleased with how the team looked, and it is feasible that the Blues line up in that shape again tomorrow. Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar had excellent games on Saturday but tended to wander into the middle resulting in narrowing the pitch, which would be something Moyes would want to rectify.
Wigan have struggled with conceding first this season, shipping the first goal in twelve of their eighteen games. Of those twelve, they recovered to draw once and win once. The Latics passing game continues to win many admirers, but they have struggled to find the final pass and goals have also been hard to come by. Arouna Koné possesses the speed to give John Heitinga nightmares again if the Dutch defender plays after his horror showing against Carlton Cole. Franco di Santo has also proved to be a handful for whichever Everton player has lined up at right back, and Phil Jagielka will have his work cut out tomorrow if that is where he plays.
Match Facts -
- Everton are unbeaten in their last five matches on Boxing Day, with 2 wins and 3 draws.
- The Toffees are unbeaten in their last twelve Goodison games, mustering 8 wins and 4 draws.
- Wigan have conceded first in 12 of their 18 games, tied worst in the League.
- Both Everton and Wigan have only kept two clean sheets all season, tied for second-worst.
- The Latics are the only team in the League to have not scored an away goal in the first half of games.
- Everton have scored in their last 15 games, the longest streak in the Premier League this year.