July 15, 2015 - 11:00 a.m. BST, 6:00 a.m. EDT, 3:00am PDT
Everton started their pre-season campaign with a comfortable 4-0 victory at Swindon Town, with Belgians Kevin Mirallas (2) and Romelu Lukaku – and Conor McAleny on the scoresheet.
Today though they are up for a stiffer challenge, the Blues face the familiar opponents in Stoke City at Singapore’s National Stadium in the first semi-final of the Barclays Asia Trophy, with the winners facing the winners of Arsenal vs Singapore Select XI on Saturday.
How to watch
EvertonTV are covering the Blues’ pre-season campaign and streaming of this match can be purchased for £1.99 or a ‘pre-season pass’ can be bought for £14.99 for streaming of the rest of the pre-season fixture list.
As with last Saturday, Bryan Oviedo, Darron Gibson, Leighton Baines and Aiden McGeady are out of both this game and the match Saturday and have not travelled to Singapore with the squad.
A casualty from the trip to Swindon was Muhamed Besic, who suffered a hamstring injury just 20 minutes after coming on and has also stayed in England.
Stoke City finished ninth in the Premier League last season, equalling their best ever finish; a league position they achieved the previous season in Mark Hughes’ first campaign at the Potters helm. Mark Hughes’ side completed Stoke’s first league double over Everton since 1967 after beating the Toffees at Goodison Park with a Bojan penalty and winning 2-0 in the return fixture through a stunning Victor Moses header and a lucky Mame Biram Diouf goal.
Stoke have been on a steady upward trajectory since establishing themselves as a Premier League side under Tony Pulis. Although the Swiss international has turned down the chance to join the Potters, even having a bid accepted for Xherdan Shaqiri shows the ambition of the club and the progress they have made. Another sign of that progress, in midfielder Bojan Krkic has travelled with the Stoke squad in a bid to return from the knee ligament injury he suffered last season but will not play in either game in Singapore.
What to Watch For
Players drenched in sweat. Although it will be an evening kick-off in Singapore it will still be fairly humid and it only being the second game back for the players, some may struggle to cope with the heat.
Having said that I would expect more players to complete at least an hour, having been back in training for two weeks. Some of the more fitter players like James McCarthy or Phil Jagielka might even go onto complete the full 90 minutes.
After his impressive performance on Saturday I would also expect to see Conor McAleny start to see how he fares against a Premier League opponent.
As far as what to expect from the opposition, I would expect a good early challenge in the pre-season campaign against tough opposition. We know how Stoke have evolved their play in the past years since being promoted but without Steven N’Zonzi, who they sold to Sevilla, they might lack something in the heart of midfield as the Frenchman provided both an engine and creative threat.
The Final Word
Like against Swindon Town, the result is not the most important thing today. Regaining fitness is the priority as well as salvaging some match sharpness. However, with this game being against an EPL side and a semi-final of a tournament, it can’t be helped that some significance to the result will be attached.