Everton-Hull City Preview
The KC Stadium will host two teams in dire need of three points New Year's Day when Everton travel to Hull City.
Steve Bruce's Hull (3-7-9) are out of the relegation zone only due to goal difference, and Sunday's hugely demoralising 1-0 loss to bottom-club Leicester City made it just one win and five points in the last 10 league matches for the Tigers.
The disappointment of Hull's season is in stark contrast to the club's first half of 2014, which saw them comfortably avoid relegation while also reaching the FA Cup final. There has been little for the City fans to cheer since August, but Bruce is hoping the home faithful will provide a spark for the crucial clash with Everton.
"The support that we have received this season both home and away has been absolutely fantastic," Bruce said. "Everton on New Year's Day is undoubtedly a huge fixture for us and it is important that our fans continue to get behind the team in very much the same fashion as we look to bounce back from Sunday's 1-0 defeat to Leicester City.
"Victory over Everton could be the springboard we need going into 2015, and I ask our fans to get right behind the lads and be our 12th man when Roberto Martinez's side come to town."
Martinez's Everton (5-6-8) lost their third straight game with Sunday's 3-2 reverse against Newcastle United, and with just one win in seven, the Toffees have slipped closer to the relegation zone than the European places.
Talisman Leighton Baines has been one of the few bright sparks in what has been a challenging couple of weeks for the Merseyside club, and the Everton veteran is determined to start 2015 off on a new foot.
"Obviously, we're down at the moment - we're on a poor run and there is no sense in kidding ourselves," Baines said. "We've got to go away and look at ourselves because, at the moment, things aren't going well but we'll keep working as hard as we can to turn things around.
"It's very important to start 2015 with a win and we're looking at it as a chance to turn things around for us. We still think that if we can get back to the levels we set, next year can be a really good one for us."
Hull have injury doubts over Gaston Ramirez and Andy Robertson, while Michael Dawson, Mohamed Diame and Robert Snodgrass remain out of action. Everton will be missing Tim Howard, Tony Hibbert, Leon Osman and Darron Gibson, while Jon Stones, Phil Jagielka and James McCarthy face late fitness tests.
It was a 1-1 draw when these teams met at Goodison Park in early December as Sone Aluko's goal in the 59th minute canceled Romelu Lukaku's first-half marker. Hull had lost three straight to Everton prior to that draw, being outscored 9-2 in those games, and have won just one of their last eight meetings with Everton in all competitions.
The Tigers have never kept a clean sheet against Everton in the Premier League, conceding 16 times in seven league encounters, and have totaled three goals in their last four against the Toffees.