Everton start 2014 with a trip to the Potteries to take on Stoke City looking to strengthen their grasp on fourth place in the Premier League and at the same time put pressure on the teams above them in the table.
Everton have experienced a mixed festive period, with a surprise loss to Sunderland, before they earned a deserved 2-1 victory over Southampton with two fantastic goals from Seamus Coleman and Romelu Lukaku.
Everton travel to the Britannia looking for their first win against Stoke in five years. Not since Stoke inaugural year in the Premier League have Everton left Stoke with three points. Indeed with three draws and one defeat in the last four trips to the Potteries have not been memorable for the travelling Evertonians. Everton have only scored twice in those four matches and both those two goals were own goals, meaning an Everton player has not scored away at Stoke since Tim Cahill scored a late winner in 2008.
In the reverse fixture earlier in the season, Everton romped to an impressive 4-0 victory. Indeed that win was only one month ago and Roberto Martinez will be expecting his players to maintain the upper hand over their opponents. In that win Gerard Deulofeu, Seamus Coleman, Bryan Oviedo and Romelu Lukaku scored as Everton recorded the most resounding victory of the Roberto Martinez era.
After resting several players for the Southampton match, Roberto Martinez is expected to make significant changes to his team for this game. Tim Howard and Gareth Barry are back from suspension to add some much-needed experience and both are certain to return to the starting line-up. Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas appeared as late substitutes at Goodison on Sunday and are likely to win their places back with Bryan Oviedo and Steven Naismith returning to the substitute’s bench.
Phil Jagielka is definitely out of the match having suffered a hamstring injury in the defeat to Sunderland. That injury is likely to keep him out of action for four weeks and that opens a door for Antolin Alcaraz to finally kick-start his own Everton career which has so far been savaged by injury. The Paraguayan made his debut against Southampton and was many observers man of the match and is likely to continue alongside Sylvain Distin.
Romelu Lukaku broke his six game goal drought against Southampton and is therefore expected to hold off the challenge of Nikica Jelavic.
Possible Starting Team: Howard; Baines, Coleman, Alcaraz, Distin; Barry, McCarthy, Barkley; Pienaar, Mirallas; Lukaku.
With little archive footage of Everton trips to Stoke available, our look back at previous Everton trips to Stoke matches takes us to the Victoria Ground during the league title winning season of 1984-85. Everton were winners by two goals to nil with goals from Sharp and Sheedy scoring the goals.