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.

Dempsey returns to training after second heart procedure

SAN JOSE, CA - JULY 28:  Clint Dempsey #2 of MLS All-Stars chases after the ball up field against the Arsenal FC during the second half of the AT&T MLS All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium on July 28, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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Many were concerned about USMNT and Seattle Sounders attacker Clint Dempsey‘s future when he underwent a pair of heart procedures in 2016.

The 33-year-old Dempsey took another step to allay those fears when he hit the pitch for Seattle’s first day of preseason camp.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

The Sounders won the 2016 MLS Cup despite the absence of Dempsey, and his return would further strengthen the side. General manager Garth Lagerwey said Dempsey won’t be rushed, but could be nearing a return.

EFL Cup second legs preview: Liverpool, Hull City aim for comebacks

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11:  Divock Origi of Liverpool battles with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (L) and Ryan Bertrand of Southampton during the EFL Cup semi-final first leg match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium on January 11, 2017 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
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Manchester United and Southampton are 90 minutes from Wembley Stadium.

Hull City and Liverpool would prefer to change that.

After first legs a fortnight ago, the EFL Cup semifinals play out on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of Feb. 26’s final at Wembley.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

First up is Southampton‘s trip to Liverpool, with the Saints nursing a 1-0 lead from the first leg at St. Mary’s. The Wednesday kickoff sees Saints hoping the Reds’ poor run of form will continue at Anfield. Liverpool has one win 2017, and that was an FA Cup replay victory over Plymouth Argyle.

Southampton boss Claude Puel knows the Reds will be ornery:

“We know Liverpool. They lost against Swansea at home, and I am sure they will want to react against us, but it’s important to keep all of our focus about our play.

“We know they are fantastic, a great team, with great players, but you saw in the first leg we have the ability to produce a strong game against them. It will be important to make a strong game – a perfect game – I think.”

Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United got a terrific result in the first leg at Old Trafford, scoring twice and holding Hull City from scooping up a valuable road goal. Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini scored the goals in the 2-0 win, but the KC Stadium will be rocking on Thursday as the Tigers look to reverse the result.

United midfielder Michael Carrick says the Red Devils will play as if they are starting from scratch:

“It’s definitely not over, we all know that. We are telling ourselves that. I think we’ll be pretty much full strength and will approach the game like it’s a 0-0 and starting from scratch.

“It’s dangerous when you go in there defending a lead to tell yourself this result will do or that result will do, or we can afford to do this or that.”

Report: China tempting TFC’s Giovinco with big offer

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco celebrates his goal against the Philadelphia Union during the first half of an MLS soccer playoff match in Toronto, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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Could Sebastian Giovinco’s chances of another MVP award be diminishing?

It wouldn’t be on account of a lack of production, rather massive money coming his way from the Chinese Soccer League.

[ MORE: How will U.S. line up vs. Serbia? ]

Great, and right when we were daydreaming about how Toronto FC’s Italian attacker could run a revenge tour on the folks who somehow left him out of the MVP finalists last year.

Giovinco turns 30 on Thursday.

From The Toronto Sun’s Kurtis Larsson:

“The Chinese club seems to be very interested, but I don’t think it’ll be easy to take him away from Toronto,” Giovinco’s agent, Andrea D’Amico, told the broadcaster.

“We received an important offer from China and we’ll talk to Toronto to decide, along with Sebastian, what to do.”

Giovinco is with Toronto FC for preseason training camp, and both the club and player have shown no interest in moving on from the diminutive winger and 2015 MVP.

But if China comes calling with crazy money, say a $25-30 million transfer fee, shouldn’t TFC think twice? Any figure above $25 million would be more than the sum of the three biggest incoming transfer fees in MLS history (Miguel Almiron, Michael Bradley, Jermain Defoe).

AFCON wrap: Ivory Coast bounced, DR Congo wins Group C

Congo's soccer players celebrate after scoring a goal against Togo during the African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match between Congo and Togo at the Stade de Port-Gentil, Gabon, Tuesday Jan. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
AP Photo/Sunday Alamba
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Down went another knockout round mainstay from the Africa Cup of Nations, as the Ivory Coast failed to capture one of the top two spots in Group C.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Morocco 1-0 Ivory Coast

Needing a win to move on, the Ivory Coast fell in its final group match. Rachid Alioui scored a 64th minute goal that meant the Ivory Coast needed two to advance to the quarterfinals. The goals didn’t come, and Morocco will face the Group D winner next.

Togo 1-3 DR Congo

Junior Kabananga, Paul-Jose M’Poku, and Ndombe Mubele scored as the Leopards finished the group stage with an unbeaten record of 2-1. DR Congo will face the runner-up of Group D in the quarterfinals.

Wednesday’s matches

Ghana is through with six points, while Uganda is out. Egypt will go through with a result against Ghana, while Mali needs a win and an Egypt loss to get to tiebreakers.

Egypt vs. Ghana — 2 p.m. ET
Uganda vs. Mali — 2 p.m. ET