Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year Toffee Battle

Charlton travel to Everton for another Premiership match tomorrow, their first match in 2006, and their third and Everton's fourth game in the last eight days. Both teams won their last matches and kept clean sheets, Charlton by two clear goals against West Ham and the Toffeemen courtesy of a last minute Tim Cahill goal against bottom club Sunderland.

It is expected that Alan Curbishley will pick a similar team to that which won on Saturday, but there could be returns for Gonzalo Sorondo and Alexei Smertin after injury, and Danny Murphy after suspension.

If Sorondo is passed fit (he failed a late fitness test on his bruised foot on Saturday), he will come into the centre of defence, with Hermann Hreidersson likely to move across to left back in place of Chris Powell.

In midfield, barring any unknown injuries, Murphy could return in place of either Bryan Hughes - who has been ineffective in the last two games - or Dennis Rommedahl - who played well in patches aginst West Ham. If Smertin is also fit, he may replace Matt Holland, but this is less likely and it could be that Smerts is out for some weeks with his knee ligament damage.

Tactically, the return to a 4-4-2 formation has paid dividends, but Everton tend to line up with five in midfield, and Curbishley is known for liking to match up whenever possible. This may mean a switch back to 4-5-1 with Murphy and Ambrose (or Thomas) coming in for Bartlett and Hughes.

Everton's defence has been very loose recently, almost as accomodating as Charlton's, so the outlook is for plenty of goals. However, usually when this is the case both sides tighten up completely and it would not surprise me to see a single goal win this match.

Pedro45's score prediction is therefore a 1-0 win to the Londoners, and my one-to-watch is Dennis Rommedahl (left) who could scare the daylights out of the Everton rearguard if he gets the chance to run at them at pace.

On a different note, it was interesting to see that Curbishley has denied any contact with Graeme Sounness since August, after papers linked them in talks about Danny Murphy. Similarly, that means that no discussions have taken place over a possible Lee Bowyer transfer back to the Valley. Another name linked with a transfer to Charlton has been Everton's Marcus Bent, with Peter Varney all but admitting some interest, and if it is likely to happen then tomorrow would seem to be the opportune time to get discussions underway.

The truth though on most names linked with transfers to and from Charlton would be that it is all paper talk, with an element of agent-speak involved. Players who have a eighteen months left on their contracts tend to be put in the showcase by agents chatting to newspapers, and Curbs has admitted that movement is difficult at this time of year. The good news from Charlton's perspective is that money does seem to be available if the right players can be prised from their clubs.

With Dean Ashton (left) also being linked, and Norwich having expressed an interest is the past over Jonatan Johansson and Kevin Lisbie, there may be some sort of possibility of a swap plus cash and a deal that helps both teams. The £7.5 million price tag quoted in some papers is way off the mark. Sheffield United are another club whose promotion ambitions may encourage them to seek new players, and they have been linked with Charlton's Bartlett, Lisbie, Fortune, and Holland recently - there could be some truth in this link, and again the possibility is Phil Jagielka could be exchanged for one or more of the players mentioned above(plus cash).

Additionally, with Harry Redknapp back at Pompey and likely to wheel and deal as much as he can, there could be more movement as he buys and sells than in any previous season; Garry O'Neill anyone?

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