Everton host Stoke City at Goodison Park looking to end a run of three consecutive draws in the league. The last of these was a scintillating 3-3 draw against Liverpool last weekend, after poor goalless draws against Tottenham and Crystal Palace, that has not only lifted the spirits of the entire squad but that of the fans as well. This result has also shown to the rest of the league that Everton are more than capable of performing to the standard needed to achieve the Champions League ambitions harboured by manager Roberto Martinez. They will however be slightly disappointed to have conceded three goals, including a late equaliser, from set pieces, especially when coming up against the leagues specialists in the matter.
Stoke City are another club under a period of transition, like Everton, as new manager Mark Hughes looks to implement a passing regime to replace the long ball tactics employed, to varying degrees of success, by former manager Tony Pulis. This period of change has come with fluctuating levels of success, with some performances hinting at a better future to come, but others disappointing. They beat Sunderland last time round, though were fortunate that a ridiculous red card for Wes Brown helped them on their way and stifled any chances of a Sunderland revival. Currently sitting 14th in the table, it could be a lot worse for the Potters, but it could be better all the same.
Everton are without Leighton Baines for up to six weeks after he broke his toe during the Merseyside derby, so Bryan Oviedo could be set to come in. They are still without Arouna Koné and Darron Gibson who are long term injuries but Antonlin Alcaraz is now fit though unlikely to start after such a long time out.
Stoke are missing several first team players for the trip to Goodison, including on loan forward Marko Arnautovic who has a hamstring injury, and centre back Robert Huth who has a knee injury. Striker Kenwyne Jones, Mark Wilson and Stephen Ireland are all missing, but expected to return by November 30th, so could face late fitness tests before kick-off.
Keys to the match
If Everton perform as they did against Liverpool last weekend, then expectations will be high. Their attacking performance against their rivals was of the highest order, especially loanees Romelu Lukaku and Gerard Deulofeu, the first scoring a double and the young Spaniard having several chances to finish off Liverpool. Everton will also hope that Kevin Mirallas will perform as well as he did, and look to add to the wonder goal he scored in last season's fixture against the same opponents. They will however need to improve their defending, especially from set pieces, where they were lacking last week and have been roundly criticised for.
Stoke meanwhile will probably look to exploit that new found defensive weakness from set pieces their opponents have discovered. Although Mark Hughes is keen for his team to play a better style of football than that for which they are renowned, he cannot ignore their strength in such situations, especially with the likes of Peter Crouch and Ryan Shawcross in their team. His team will also look exploit the uncertainly that is likely to occur from the absence of Leighton Baines, though Roberto Martinez has stressed that they are strong in this area regardless.
On paper, Everton are the better footballing side of the two teams on show, with better attacking players adapting to Martinez's new style. They will look to build momentum from last week's derby performance before tough upcoming away trips to Arsenal and Manchester United. This will not be an easy fixture however, as Stoke are an unpredictable beast, and Everton have often struggled against them during the Pulis years. As mentioned already, it is likely they will look to exploit Everton's new found set piece weaknesses that were highlighted during the derby, though they can be a danger from midfield with Charlie Adam and Steven N'Zonzi improving.
This will be the 123rd meeting between the two clubs, with Everton looking to make it their 60th victory over Stoke in all competitions.
Everton won the corresponding fixture at Goodison last year, 1-0, thanks to a wonder goal from Kevin Mirallas.
Everton have won three and drawn three of their six home games so far this season. In contrast, Stoke have only won one of their six away games, conceding eleven goals in the process.
By winning this game, Everton could find themselves in the Champions League place they covet. A loss for Stoke could potentially see them slipping into the relegation zone.
Romelu Lukaku is currently Everton's top scorer with seven goals in eight games with Kevin Mirallas following on two. Conversely, Stoke's top scorer is Charlie Adam with three goals, whilst goalkeeper Asmir Begovic is one of those following on one after his goal against Southampton.