Everton - Sunderland Preview: Toffees look to continue prolific home form

Roberto Martinez's men could move one step closer to going an entire calendar year unbeaten at Goodison Park by beating Gus Poyet's struggling Black Cats on Boxing Day
Everton will hope that their lengthy unbeaten home run in the Premier League does not come to a surprise end when bottom side Sunderland visit.

The Merseyside club last suffered a league defeat at Goodison Park on December 30 last year, when Chelsea ran out 2-1 victors.

A win over Sunderland on Thursday would not only put the Toffees one game away from finishing 2013 without a home defeat but also strengthen their hopes of finishing in the top four.

Roberto Martinez's men will be firm favourites, too, as they welcome a Sunderland side who have shown signs of a revival under head coach Gus Poyet without yet finding the required form to climb off the foot of the table.

25/1 Everton are 25/1 with PaddyPower to win the Premier League title this season
Despite enjoying impressive home wins over local rivals Newcastle and title candidates Manchester City in the early days of his reign, Poyet sees his team three points adrift at the bottom.

Sunderland have taken just three points out of a possible 18 since beating City on November 10.

Everton, by contrast, have scored eight goals in their last two home outings, beating Stoke City and Fulham convincingly, although Martinez is wary of a Black Cats outfit whom he believes can cause problems.

"It is an exciting test and exactly what we need," the Spaniard told reporters.

"[Poyet] is starting to get his ideas and vision across, I know he will bring a lot of success. We need to be prepared for a tough afternoon.

"Any team capable of beating Man City in the manner they did know they can get wins against anyone. They have been through a transitional period and have got good footballers who can hurt you. They'll grow into the season."

While Sunderland were victorious in their last meeting with Everton, claiming a 1-0 win at The Stadium of Light in April, they have not won at Goodison Park since 1996.

Michael Bridges scored twice that day in a 3-1 victory and Poyet would appreciate a similar performance from one of his frontmen on Thursday - with his side having found the net only once in their last three Premier League games.

Wes Brown is suspended following his red card in Saturday 0-0 draw with Norwich City but captain John O'Shea is set to shake off a shoulder injury.

Martinez is hoping to be boosted by the return for Leighton Baines. The England left-back has not featured since picking up a foot injury in November's 3-3 draw with Liverpool but is in line to feature against Sunderland.

Tony Hibbert (knee), Nikica Jelavic (hamstring), Steven Pienaar and Sylvain Distin (both knocks) are also set to be available.