Newcastle United will host Everton Tuesday in what will be John Carver's final match in charge on the touchline. Will he utter the phrase "tired bodies" when the Magpies lose? I didn't pose that question to Calvin of Royal Blue Mersey, SBN's Everton blog, but I did quiz him about the Toffees a bit. Come back later today for our live game thread.
Coming Home Newcastle: Everton seem to be perpetually on the fringe of Champions League qualification. What will it take to get over that hump?
Royal Blue Mersey: Same as before, added squad depth. Everton always challenge the teams at the higher echelons of the table, but cannot sustain that form for long enough to secure that elusive fourth spot. Injuries and loss of form are known variables in the game and can only be combated by having enough top level players to step in. With their limited transfer budget, Everton have always struggled to sign the top players, and even when they have, they simply do not have a strong enough bench to compensate for when the starters are out.
Alas, the only way to get over that hump is with a new owner and possibly a new stadium. Goodison Park's unique location means there is little room for addition or advanced development to it, so it will take moving the stadium out of the city, but yet somewhere accessible enough by the common man - Everton are, after all, The People's Club. But more importantly, we need a new owner that will provide the cash injection for the Blues to hold on to their best players and get more as well.
CHN: How have you liked Roberto Martinez in comparison with David Moyes?
RBM: Martinez brings a refreshing positivism to the job, and it's radically changing the mindset around the club. Moyes brought a dour ruggedness with a mentality of getting the job done. When we traveled to the bigger clubs, we played to not lose and come away with the draw. The Scotsman's team selection and conservative tactics at crucial junctures reflected his fear of losing, which also resulted in a lack of winning. The Spaniard however is an eternal optimist and always sees the silver lining, no matter how big the cloud. His attitude is infectious and when Everton are in form, they play with a reckless abandon that has had hearts racing in the blue half of the Mersey.
We've had a decade of the more stolid football, we like what Roberto is building and think it gives us a better shot at success. You'll be hard-pressed to find a Toffee that'll say they would rather have Moyes than Martinez.
CHN: Do you have any hope of prying Romelu Lukaku away from Chelsea? If not, what's the plan for replacing him? Are there any internal candidates?
RBM: Who can tell what Jose Mourinho is thinking? On one hand he sends Lukaku away on loan, and then bemoans his striking situation. Recently he's had some harsh words to say about the Belgian's immaturity, which led Evertonians to believe that he would be willing to let Lukaku go. However, the price tag he would come with would most likely be higher than anything we have in our coffers.
Unfortunately there really is no plan to replace him, unless Martinez can unearth another gem on loan. Everton cannot afford a world-class striker, and neither do they have a youth player who can step in and grow into the role.
CHN: What other needs will Martinez need to address in the offseason?
RBM: Like I said above, depth all around would be great. A veteran presence in defence who can also play the defensive midfielder role would be crucial. A central midfielder with vision and possibly pace would also be great. Finally, an experienced striker who can be a physically aggressive presence in the opponents box is almost mandatory.
CHN: Who is an underrated player for your squad that we should watch for on Tuesday?
RBM: I would say Seamus Coleman, but by now the Premier League is well aware of his abilities, so instead I'll mention Aiden McGeady. The Irish winger is faster than he looks, and is also capable of consistently swinging in accurate crosses. He is quite comfortable switching wings and has a pretty fierce shot that comes out of nowhere. With Steven Pienaar out, McGeady could possibly start again on Tuesday.
CHN: If you were preparing for a match against Everton, what would your plan of attack be?
RBM: Press them high, and force them to resort to the long ball to get the ball away. Nothing ruffles the Blues' feathers more than not finding the outlet ball, and that is when they are at their most vulnerable. They end up bypassing the midfield with long balls and soon lose the entire plot.
Oh yeah, they're also pretty awful at defending setpieces against big, physical players.
CHN: You've got 4 wins from the last 6 matches in league play. To what do you attribute your run of good form?
RBM: Playing at home. Really, Everton are six for six at home in 2014. On the road though, it's a completely different story - two points in their last five away, with their last road win coming before Christmas.
Everton have looked listless and unmotivated since we got into the meat-and-potatoes part of the schedule during the holiday season, and haven't really broken out of that funk. At home they've relied on late heroics and weaker opposition to grind out the wins, but have had nowhere to hide away from Goodison Park.
CHN: Any matchups you're looking forward to on Tuesday? What's your prediction for the match?
RBM: Fabricio Coloccini and Mike Williamson going up against Romelu Lukaku should be a sight to see. Papiss Cisse against veteran Sylvain Distin and youngster John Stones could equally settle this game. I'll also be interested to see if Hatem Ben Arfa gets the start, and how he does with the attentions of James McCarthy on him. Similarly, will Ross Barkley get any joy coming up against Cheik Tiote.
Goals have never been an issue when Magpies meet Toffees - I say 2-2, with a late equalizer from Newcastle.
My thanks to Calvin for taking the time to answer our questions. Make sure and check out Royal Blue Mersey for all things Everton, including the other half of our conversation (which actually features Calvin and Jim).