Everton have been steady thus far under Martinez' stewardship. Plus, the wonderful attacking creativity is their for all to see.

Premier League Preview: Everton vs. Newcastle United

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  • They’ve met 164 times in all competitions, Everton winning 65, Newcastle 64 and 35 draws
  • Everton haven’t lost at Goodison Park in 2013, (8-0-3)
  • The Toffees have averaged the most possession in the Premier League this season (59.4%)

Everton stand alone in the Premier League, as the only team still unbeaten.

But will they come undone at home to Newcastle (3pm ET, watch live on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports Live Extra) on Monday at Goodison Park?

Roberto Martinez has overseen a seamless transition from the David Moyes era, as Everton have won two and drawn three of their opening five games, in a solid start to the 2013-14 season. And they will be hoping to extend their terrific home form against a Newcastle side who’ve only won once in their last 21 visits to Merseyside, and do not travel well.

Alan Pardew’s men have only won three of their last 22 away games in the Premier League, and after a disappointing home defeat to Hull City last weekend, the Magpies need a good response.

The last time these two meet was last season in January, as Everton beat Newcastle 2-1 at St. James’ Park thanks to a stunning free kick from Leighton Baines.

In term of teams news, Gareth Barry is in-line to make his 500th Premier League appearance if selected by Martinez, with only 10 other players reaching that landmark in PL history. While Darron Gibson is hoping to overcome a knee injury. For Newcastle, Steven Taylor and Shola Ameobi could  be fit to return, by Argentine winger Jonas Gutierrez is still out with a hamstring injury.

What they’re saying

Roberto Martinez on Newcastle lack of summer signings: “They made their business early with the loan of Remy and after that they didn’t sign anyone. It seemed from the outside that they didn’t do good business, but the reality is the squad has been strong since January. They made a lot of good signings and that group of players are settled. I see a really good balance between experience and organization, but then a real threat with the likes of Remy, (Papiss) Cisse, (Hatem) Ben Arfa, (Yohan) Cabaye. You’re talking about top, top footballers who are in a good moment in their careers and full internationals. You take away the Manchester City game and they’ve been performing at a very, very good level, so it would be foolish for anyone to underestimate the potential of this Newcastle side.”

Alan Pardew on the importance of captain Fabio Coloccini: “I don’t know how to put that into words, really. He is very, very important, a very steady, calming influence. Last year when he wasn’t playing, there was something missing from the team. That’s why it’s so important that he stayed, and hopefully he will stay for a lot longer than this year as well. We have got a new back four this year because Mapou has played all year, and Colo, Mathieu and Davide (Santon),” said Pardew. That’s been our back four, with (goalkeeper) Tim (Krul), quite settled. Thank goodness, and long may that continue.”

Prediction

Everton’s home record has been immense in recent years, and Newcastle’s away form has been woeful. But let’s throw the form book out the window, because who thought West Brom would beat Manchester United and Man City would lose at Aston Villa over the weekend? But with a fired up crowd under the lights at Goodison Park, Martinez’ side should thrive and attack Newcastle from the start. I can see a tight win for the Toffees, or maybe the Magpies will nick a draw. Nah, Everton win.

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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