It’s been quite the turn around for Everton since Sam Allardyce took charge two weeks ago. Before Sunday’s Merseyside Derby 1-1 draw with Liverpool, the Blues had kept three successive clean sheets and have improved immensely in defence.
It feels as if it’s been that long since Everton won away from Goodison Park but hasn’t been that long in actual fact.
The Blues have failed to win away since their 1-0 over Palace last January and will be itching to set the record straight on Wednesday night.
In Focus: Sam Stability
Sam Allardyce is unlikely to ever be the most popular manager at Goodison Park, that’s been made abundantly clear in recent weeks, but he’s on his way to winning over some parts of the fanbase.
It’s not his tactics or his handling of players, but his honesty with the press and the persona that exudes him during press conferences and interviews. The ‘Big Sam’ character is an easy one to get behind when all is well and tougher tests will come but for now, he’s got some of the Goodison faithful on board.
The new Blues boss has got a tough January transfer window on his hands in a few weeks time but he has recognised that issue early and it should, ultimately, be another check in the positive box for most Evertonians.
Whether or not the whole fanbase takes to him in time is to be seen but to step in and steady a sinking ship so quickly will, at least in the short term, give him some breathing room.
With a frantic festive period ahead, stability will be expected to turn into progression.
If Big Sam can answer the bell, he may just earn himself a song from the hard to win over Gwladys Street.
The last time the two sides met at St James’ Park, Roberto Martinez’s Everton escaped with a late 1-0 win over Steve McClaren’s Newcastle United side on Boxing Day of 2014.
A Tom Cleverley header at the death secured the points for Martinez’s side as they picked up their first Premier League win in five games. The Blues sat ninth in the league table, within striking range of the top six - who they would ultimately fail to catch.
For McClaren’s Magpies, they slipped to eighteenth on their way to relegation from the Premier League.
A look at: Newcastle United
Rafa Benitez is in charge at St James’ Park now and is looking to keep the North East club in the Premier League after promotion from the Sky Bet Championship last season.
The Magpies sit sixteenth in the league table, two points above the bottom three but only four behind Allardyce’s Everton side.
The Spaniard’s side have scored five in their last three games but have conceded eight in the process. They’ve also only picked up one point in those last three games - a 2-2 draw away at West Bromwich Albion.
Everton’s injury list remains full of long-term injuries but Leighton Baines could return from a calf muscle strain.
Yannick Bolasie completed 30 minutes for Everton’s under 23’s on Monday afternoon but is unlikely to be back in first-team action for at least another three weeks.
For Newcastle, there is a clean bill of health and Benitez will have a full-strength side to pick from.
Newcastle: Darlow, Manquillo, Clark, Lejeune, Yedlin, Murphy, Merino, Hayden, Richie, Joselu, Gayle.
Everton: Pickford, Kenny, Martina, Williams, Holgate, Gueye, Davies, Sigurdsson, Lennon, Rooney, Calvert-Lewin.
Match Day Stats
Everton have won three of their last five visits to the North East.
Rafael Benitez has never lost a PL home match against Everton, winning five and drawing two.
Wayne Rooney has been involved in 22 goals in his 22 Premier League appearances against Newcastle - 14 goals, 8 assists - which is more than against any other opponent in the competition.