Everton open their League Cup campaign by hosting League One Stevenage on Wednesday night. Roberto Martinez will attempt to get a solid victory against a club that arrived in the Football League back in 2010.
The club is best known for their 0-0 draw against Tottenham at home in the 5th round of the FA Cup in 2012. The replay at White Hart Lane saw the club lose 3-1, but it was still a magnificent performance by the Boros.
While Everton has had success thrashing lower level sides in this competition, the Toffees have never been able to progress far in the past decade. Last year a disappointing third round match against Leeds United saw the club knocked out and it will be interesting to see what type of team Martinez trots out for this one. Martinez has some experience with upsets by lower sides, last year Wigan Athletic fell victim to cinderella Bradford City as they advanced to the League Cup final.
For this one I predict Martinez to go with a mainly fully strength lineup though I could see guys like Bryan Oviedo and John Stones getting some time. I could see Martinez trying to bring out his 3-5-2 in this one if he wants to get the players some more game experience in the formation. Stevenage really shouldn't threaten and this would be a perfect excuse to see where the players are at in transitioning. Expect Sylvian Distin to be rested, he picked up a knock in the season opener and was hobbling around at times on Saturday. There is no need to play him in this game with several backup options perfectly serviceable. Tim Howard is also likely to start on the bench with almost all EPL sides using their backup keeper for most of this competition.
Stevenage had been in poor form during their League One campaign with three consecutive defeats to begin the season. Their first victory came this past weekend over Notts County and coupled with a stunning upset of promotion favorites Ipswich Town means Stevenage comes into this match with some momentum.
Manager Graham Westley has molded a side that is best known for their tactical flexibility. Mr. Westley has no qualms about putting players in different positions to help strengthen the clubs plan of attack. The club has scored 6 goals in 5 games with midfielder Felipe Morais leading everyone with 2 goals in all competitions.
The defense appears solid with the club only allowing 2 goals in 5 matches. This excludes an unusual opening day fixture where Stevenage lost 4-3 to Oldham Athletic. The game plan for Stevenage in this one is likely to be pack the box and then attempt to get a chance or two on the counter. There won't be many surprises here, but Everton will need to be patient and work to break down the defense. With some relentless pressure the Toffees will be able to advance to the next round and hopefully another home fixture.