Stoke arrive at Goodison Park on Saturday afternoon with Everton and Roberto Martinez looking to move back into the Premier League’s top four. The Blues has been there or thereabouts all season, but with just one win in their last six league fixtures, Everton will be keen to take advantage of this home fixture to put pressure on the teams around them, many of whom do not play until Sunday.
After the dramatic Merseyside derby last weekend, Everton have a second Goodison Park fixture in successive weeks and with the Toffees unbeaten in the league at home in 2013, they will be confident against a Stoke side struggling at the wrong end of the table. Stoke did record a win last weekend against Sunderland, but that was the Potters first win since August and with Mark Hughes trying to in grain a new style of play, the Staffordshire side have found Premier League points hard to come by.
Hughes himself, an ex-Everton player, is not hugely popular on Merseyside after his antagonistic pursuit of Joleon Lescott when manager of Manchester City and he is still trying to convince the Stoke supporters that he is the right man to succeed former manager Tony Pulis. Hughes has some injury concerns to deal with, particularly in defence with Robert Huth ruled out after picking up an injury last weekend.
Roberto Martinez has injury concerns as well and for the first time in a league fixture during his tenure at Everton, will be forced to change the defence, with Leighton Baines out with a broken toe. Martinez has a number of options, with Bryan Oviedo, Antolin Alcaraz, John Stones and Tony Hibbert all possible inclusions, alternatively Sylvain Distin may move over to the left back position, allowing Stones or Alcaraz to come into the team, or Martinez may make a tactical change and play three central defenders at the back, in a 3-5-2 formation.
Further forward, Martinez has hinted that Gerard Deulofeu is on the verge of making his first league start for the club. The young Spaniard impressed during the second half of the Merseyside derby, but Mirallas enjoyed his best game of the season against Liverpool and with Ross Barkley and Steven Pienaar also performing it is difficult to see where the Barcelona loanee will fit in. Martinez certainly faces a big call come 2pm on Saturday.
One solution, and it would certainly see Everton approach the game in a very positive manner, would be to drop Barry back into the defence, with Barkley taking on a more withdrawn role in the centre of the Blues midfield. This would allow Mirallas to support Lukaku with Pienaar and Deulofeu taking up the wide positions, in a very similar approach to the second half of the derby.
Predicted Starting Team: Howard; Barry, Coleman, Distin, Jagielka; McCarthy, Barkley; Pienaar, Deulofeu, Mirallas; Lukaku.
Our archive footage this week comes from the Championship winning season of 1984-85. The game against Stoke, which was also played in November, came at the end of a 10 match winning run for Kendall’s Blues. As Everton pushed forward in search of a treble, they recorded a resounding victory, with ex Stokie, Adrian Heath scoring twice, with Peter Reid and Trevor Steven completing the scoring.