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Everton vs Stoke City: Match Preview

Everton are back in festive action at Goodison Park

Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

A rapid turnaround for Everton sees Stoke City arrive at Goodison Park for the final match of 2015 just 48 hours after their dramatic late victory at Newcastle Utd.

Tom Cleverley’s 93rd minute header may have masked what was another frustrating 90 minutes in the north east, but it could also give the side crucial momentum ahead of a testing run of fixtures heading into the New Year.

A win at Goodison on Monday will lift the side to within two points of the top four, with the race for the European places looking increasingly open and unpredictable.

The opposition

If Everton are confident after their Boxing Day win then Stoke should be equally buoyant after their 2-0 victory over free-falling Man Utd.

The Potters have also beaten Man City and Chelsea so far this season, giving a good indication as how impressive they can be on their day.

Manager Mark Hughes has built on the solid foundations moulded by his predecessor Tony Pulis, but transitioning the side away from the physically, direct and aggressive unit formed under his fellow Welshman.

Instead, Hughes has brought in flair players such as Bojan, Ibrahim Affelay and Xherdan Shaqiri, adding a style to go with Stoke’s considerable substance.

They currently sit level on points with Everton so will also be looking for a win to close the gap on the Champions League places.

They have also lost just twice on the road this season, meaning Roberto Martinez’s side face a stern test as they look to see the year out in style.

Team news

Martinez could opt to rotate his squad given the lack of recovery time following the Newcastle game. Gerard Deulofeu and Muhamed Besic could be recalled after both impressing from the substitutes bench at St James’ Park.

James McCarthy could return after a groin injury while Steven Naismith is also pushing for a recall.

Martinez hinted that Phil Jagielka, Steven Pienaar and Bryan Oviedo could play a part in the festive programme but all three are unlikely to be risked from the start as they continue to work their way back from long-term injury.

Stoke are confident Xherdan Shaqiri will be fit despite coming off injured against Man Utd. Geoff Cameron and Glenn Whelan are also expected to feature despite suffering calf and hamstring injuries respectively.

Last word

The manner of the win at Newcastle should ensure that confidence is not an issue at Goodison even if stamina is.

The short break between games means there are bound to be weary legs on both sides, so the game could well be decided by which manager utilises their squad more effectively.

That adds a certain element of unpredictability but if you were going to pick a side with the stronger squad on paper, it would surely be Everton.

The same frustrating characteristics remain though despite Saturday’s win, the Toffees need to be much more ruthless when in possession if they are to convert more draws into wins. Something they have to do if they are to keep of with the leading clubs heading into 2016.

Despite 34 goals being scored in Everton's nine home league games this season I expect this one to be tight and tense, with only one goal likely to be the difference between the sides.

Predicted Everton XI: Howard, Coleman, Funes Mori, Stones, Baines, Cleverley, Barry, Deulofeu, Barkley, Mirallas, Lukaku.