The FourFourTwo Preview: Everton vs Stoke
The most free-flowing clash between the sides in years.
When Everton and Stoke last met at Goodison, back in March, it was a 90 minutes best described as ‘laboured’, Kevin Mirallas’ fine solo winner the one moment of beauty in a yawn-fest between two very well-drilled, if somewhat cautious sides. The 1-0 scoreline came as no surprise, with it now being nine meetings between the clubs since more than two goals were scored.
- Everton 3-3 Liverpool (Prem)
- Palace 0-0 Everton (Prem)
- Everton 0-0 Spurs (Prem)
- Villa 0-2 Everton (Prem)
- Everton 2-1 Hull (Prem)
- Stoke 2-0 S'land (Prem)
- Swansea 3-3 Stoke (Prem)
- Stoke 1-1 So'ton (Prem)
- Birmingham 4-4p Stoke (LC)
- Man Utd 3-2 Stoke (Prem)
Eight months on, and with long-time gaffers David Moyes and Tony Pulis having moved on to bigger, and, in Pulis’ case, not necessarily better things, this fixture has a pleasantly fresh feel to it. You never know, it might even get a run-out on Match of the Day before 11pm on Saturday night.
The attacking fluency his Everton side have displayed of late has seen much back-slapping for Roberto Martinez, but following three successive draws the Toffees boss will be looking for nothing less than a win against Stoke if his charges are to keep pace with the early season frontrunners.
Everton came desperately close to picking up a derby win last time out, only for Daniel Sturridge to cruelly deny them in the 89th minute. As painful as that late blow was for the Goodison faithful, they were delighted to see their side play with so much self-belief in the 3-3 draw – a trait that Moyes’ Everton teams regularly lacked against their rivals from across Stanley Park. Yes, but can they do it on a cold November’s day against Stoke?
The Potters are also playing with their tails up right now, having scored five goals across two games for the first time since last Christmas – and only one of them coming from a set-piece. Rory Delap is starting to feel like a distant memory round these parts. They may have had a touch of fortune against Gus Poyet’s side, with Wes Brown’s ludicrous red card having since been overturned, but it was a fine team performance, with Charlie Adam and Glenn Whelan passing the ball with much assurance in midfield and Geoff Cameron pushing on superbly from full-back.
Plenty of reasons to be positive then, but the nail-biters are still rife on the club forums, with Stoke more open at the back than they were under Pulis. A positive result at Goodison, however, will be the clearest sign yet that they are moving in the right direction with Mark Hughes at the helm.
Having fractured his toe against Liverpool, Leighton Baines is expected to be out for several weeks. The England man’s attacking thrust down the left will be missed, although thankfully for Martinez it’s a position in which he has plenty of options. “Gareth Barry has played in that position before and has experience, Bryan Oviedo is comfortable in that position while Tony Hibbert and John Stones can adapt into that role, as can Sylvain Distin. It is an opportunity for someone to show they can help the team,” said Martinez.
For Stoke, Stephen Ireland should be available having recovered from a knock, but he’ll do well to make the starting XI following Adam and Whelan’s exploits last weekend. Robert Huth misses out having limped off against Sunderland, with Marc Wilson and Marc Muniesa both on standby to replace the German.
Key battle: Ryan Shawcross vs Romelu Lukaku
Without Huth alongside him, Shawcross will have his hands full to contain the Everton striker we are now legally obliged to refer to as ‘the Beast’, ‘the Man mountain’ or suchlike. To mix it up, this week we’ll call him ‘the Wardrobe’. For all the praise coming the Wardrobe’s way, he’s prone to making bad decisions outside the box – as demonstrated on a few occasions against Liverpool – but if the ball’s in the air inside the opposition area, you can guarantee he’ll be ready to pounce.
The Wardrobe went in for 12 aerial duels against Liverpool – 7 more than any player in the game – and while he may have only won 5 of them, it proved enough as he headed home Everton’s third.
Shawcross has been caught out of position a few times this term as he adjusts to Stoke’s new system, but he demonstrated his ability in the air on his side’s last away outing, the 3-3 draw at Swansea. Up against the imposing Wilfried Bony, the centre-back won 6 out of 9 aerial duels – the highest number of any defender.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Everton 1-0 Stoke (Prem, Mar 13)
- Stoke 1-1 Everton (Prem, Dec 12)
- Stoke 1-1 Everton (Prem, May 12)
- Everton 0-1 Stoke (Prem, Dec 11)
- Stoke 2-0 Everton (Prem, Jan 11)
As seasoned Premier League gaffers, Martinez and Hughes will be familiar foes, the most recent of their clashes being Hughes’ first game as QPR boss, a 3-1 win for his side in January last year. That was about as good as it got for the Welshman at Loftus Road, so he won’t be getting too carried away after a few good results at the Britannia until his side nudge a bit further away from the drop zone.
Facts and figures
- Romelu Lukaku has the best minutes per goal ratio in Premier League history (minimum 20 goals), scoring every 118 minutes.
More facts at FFT's Everton vs Stoke Stats Zone page
Tips and trends
- Leighton Baines has started all of Everton’s 50 games since the start of last season, but they’ve lost just 1 of the last 7 home matches he’s missed dating back over five years.
- Everton are the only Premier League team unbeaten at home in 2013, winning 10 of their 15 matches.
- Stoke have lost 9 of their last 13 fixtures against top-half teams, failing to score on 7 occasions and have lost 6 of their previous 7 trips to top-half teams.
- Everton have won their last 5 home games against middle-third teams, with 4 W/W results.
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Another enjoyably open affair at Goodison – but without a striker to match the quality of Sturridge or Luis Suarez, Stoke to fall short. 3-1.