Everton vs. Stoke City: Match Preview

Steven Naismith might have an important role to play - Paul Thomas

Tony Pulis brings his ultra-defensive tactics to Goodison Park this weekend. Will David Moyes be able to counter without the services of Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar, and possibly Tim Howard and Phil Jagielka?

Everton manager David Moyes spoke out this week on his unresolved contract situation in an attempt to calm the discontented Blue waters of the Mersey. While admitting that the uncertainty of the situation has been frustrating and often unsettling for the club, he admitted that the final word would only be decided at the end of the season. What would have gone straight to the hearts of the fans though was the statement:

"What I am trying to do is make sure I give Everton the best chance of going forward. I wouldn't want it any other way."
"I would never do anything, in any way, to jeopardise Everton or the football club."

Tony Pulis on the other hand again lamented his side's bad luck on the road for their miserable record of one away win in their last twenty four games. Stoke City, when traveling, are a pale shadow of their solid home selves where they've only two of their last twenty two. He might have to employ some Jedi mind tricks on his players to ensure they retain their concentration on Saturday, the well-intoxicated fanbase at Goodison Park gets pretty raucous for night games.

Team News -

The Toffees will miss the services of Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar, both suspended after their physical efforts against defending champions Manchester City. However there is a small possibility that Phil Jagielka could be fit enough to make the bench, and there has been no word on Tim Howard's availability with Brad Guzan stepping in for him during the US team's World Cup qualifiers.

Robert Huth should make a return to the side after returning from suspension, resuming his often controversial partnership in defence with Ryan Shawcross. The Potters will attempt to park their coach in front of goal tomorrow, and a rough-and-tumble brawl could ensue tomorrow.

Keys To The Game -

It is widely expected that Moyes will name Steven Naismith to replace Pienaar in the lineup, with Kevin Mirallas switching over to the left. To cover for Fellaini's absence, Victor Anichebe could play alongside Nikica Jelavic, a combination that could work to Everton's advantage as it offers the attack some strength and guile, both of which are almost mandatory to beat this Stoke side. Check out Mike's excellent analysis on Moyes' dilemma for this weekend.

As ESPN FC's resident Stoke City blogger James Whittaker told us yesterday, Pulis is going to retire into a defensive shell tomorrow relying fully on setpieces and breakaways for any sort of attack. Everton have often been susceptible to a mass rush on corners and freekicks, more so later on in games, and will have to take their man assignments very seriously if the home side are hoping to come away with three points to boost a flagging Champions League qualification campaign. The duller the game, the happier Pulis gets as it represents his only chance of crossing the 40-point threshold for survival.

Match Facts -

  • Everton have beaten the Potters only once in their last seven games.
  • Nikica Jelavic's goal against City was his first since December 2012.
  • Between March 30th 2012 and today, Everton have gone 12W 6D and 1L.
  • Everton's five losses so far is their best ever for this point of the season.
  • Stoke City have picked up a mere five points in 2013, surely a sackable offence.
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