Martinez not getting carried away
Everton boss Roberto Martinez claims it is far too premature to think of his side as title contenders.
The Toffees head into Christmas just two points off the top of the Barclays Premier League, having lost just once.
Further victories over the festive period - they face Sunderland and Southampton in back-to-back home games in the space of three days this week - would enhance a feeling they could push for a first league crown since 1987.
But Martinez said: "We are in December. I would not be foolish enough to speak about the league. It is too early in the season.
"All we are doing is trying to be very consistent in our performances. The stats reflect that - only one defeat in 17 is a consistent way of performing.
"The next thing is to carry on developing, carry on working hard. I feel we haven't reached our full potential and that excites me.
"That is the only focus that we have through this festive period. We just want to get to April with the biggest amount of points we can.
"That is the moment to sit down and look at the table and set the aims for the season in the league campaign."
Avoiding defeat in the next two games would see the Merseysiders go unbeaten in the league at Goodison Park throughout 2013.
Everton have not lost at home in the competition in almost a year, their last defeat coming against Chelsea on December 30 2012.
Martinez said: "I don't think that is a stat we want to be focusing on. Obviously we want to win every game we go into.
"The reality is if you get an award or a trophy for doing that, we would consider that, but what we want is to finish as high as we can at the end of the season, and the home form is going to be vital for that.
"It is something special at Goodison. The fans and the players have a real unity that helps you to get through adversity and disappointment.
"That has been a real advantage and we don't want that to change."
Martinez is not reading much into the position of Boxing Day visitors Sunderland at the bottom of the table.
History is against the Black Cats with only one side in Premier League history - West Brom - having recovered from being last at Christmas to avoid relegation.
But Martinez has seen signs of recovery under their new manager Gus Poyet, who took charge in October, and believes they can avoid the drop.
He said: "When you have got a team that is capable of beating Man City in the manner that they did, you know they are going to get wins against anyone.
"They have been going through a transitional period.
"The new manager has brought different ideas.
"It was a phenomenal performance against Manchester City. They have got good footballers and they can hurt you in possession.
"This league can be very tough. You are not going to get an outstanding win and then link it up with another two or three good results - it doesn't happen when you are down there.
"But if you have got the quality to get that outstanding result, it shows you can get enough results coming strong in the final third of the season.
"I see Sunderland being a team that grow into the season and finish the season really strongly.
"The team is starting to get used to his ideas and his vision. I know he is going to bring a lot of success to Sunderland.
"We will have to be at our best and prepared for a tough afternoon."
Everton could welcome back England left-back Leighton Baines after a month out with a broken toe.
Relegation-haunted Sunderland head for Everton on Boxing Day having been ordered to forget about their dreadful record at Goodison Park.
The Black Cats will make the trip to Merseyside sitting at the foot of the Barclays Premier League table and only too aware of the fate which normally befalls the side occupying that unenviable position over the holiday period.
In the circumstances, a trip to a club making a surprise bid for a top-four finish and on a blistering run of form may not be what head coach Gus Poyet would have chosen as he attempts to spark a fightback, especially since the men from Wearside have not won at Goodison in more than 17 years.
However, first team coach Charlie Oatway, who deputised for the sick Uruguayan at his pre-match press conference, insisted history would count for nothing.
Oatway said: "At the end of the day, it is not worth certainly us guys, who have not long been in the job and at the club, dwelling over. At the end of the day, we have got to go to everyone.
"These are Premier League clubs with Premier League players and we must not forget that.
"I'm not one for history, to be blatantly honest. I am not one to just sit there and say positives or negatives. It's about the next game.
"I won't have it both ways. I won't say, 'Let's talk about what we did last week when we won', but not when we lost.
"For me, positives or negatives, I don't like to dwell over it. It's about what we do now and how we move forward.
"We will be prepared - Gus is prepared already, that's the mentality of the man.
"He is already prepared in his head about how he wants to do things and how Everton do things, so we just need to make sure that we go out there and give a good account of ourselves and see where it takes us."
Poyet's players would be well advised not to look too closely at Sunderland's recent history in this fixture.
They last won at Everton on November 30 1996 when a Michael Bridges double and a Craig Russell strike secured a 3-1 victory.
During the intervening years, they have returned on 14 occasions in all competitions and lost on 10 of them, and their 11 league trips, which include 7-1 and 5-0 defeats, have yielded just two points.
The Black Cats will head across the Pennines without a win in their last six league fixtures; by contrast, the Toffees have failed to collect only four of the last 18 points they have contested, and those from draws with leaders Liverpool and title contenders Arsenal.