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Stoke v Everton - Match Preview

Toffees take on the Potters at the Britannia Stadium.

Dave Thompson/Getty Images

Evertonians are in much higher spirits than they were seven days ago thanks to two wins in as many games as well as a new £13.5m deadline day striker.

Sunday’s comfortable FA Cup victory at Carlisle was followed up by Wednesday’s win over Newcastle at Goodison Park, Everton’s first league win since Boxing Day and first at home since November.

Both games featured starring performances from Ross Barkley, who now has four goals in his past three matches.

The 22-year-old is showing signs of greater maturity, particularly in his decision-making, prompting Roberto Martineztodeclare the England international is now one of the leaders in the team.

Saturday’s trip to Stoke offers Everton the chance to erase memories of their previous meeting with the Potters in December.

Back then Everton twice came from behind to lead 3-2 with 10 minutes left, only to concede two late goals in a dramatic and heart-breaking defeat.

It was an afternoon that aptly summed up Everton under Martinez, whose bold attacking ambitions are consistently hamstrung by a neglect of defensive responsibilities.

The supporters’ trust in Martinez’s tenure has slowly eroded since that day in December despite a recent upturn in results.

Those wins after all have been against a League 2 team and a poor Newcastle side currently third from bottom in the Premier League.

Saturday’s game at a no doubt wet and windy Britannia Stadium will be a much more accurate test of Everton’s recent revival.

The opposition

The tough, physical and direct Potters team of Tony Pulis looks an increasingly long way from the new-look side under Mark Hughes.

For once there was Rory Delap and Ricardo Fuller there’s now Xherdan Shaqiri and Bojan and greater emphasis on refined passing football.

On transfer deadline day Stoke spent a club-record £18.3m on Porto midfielder Giannelli Imbula, a symbol of the club’s growing financial muscle.

Despite that hefty investment the season has threatened to turn sour for the Potters in recent weeks.

They have lost their last four matches, tumbling out of two competitions in the process, as well as slipping down to 10th in the table, just one point and one place above Everton.

Their league record at the Britannia is equally inconsistent, with five wins, two draws and four defeats so far this campaign.

Team news

Everton will assess Romelu Lukaku ahead of kick-off after the Belgian was forced off with a back injury against Newcastle.

Tim Howard will again miss out so Joel Robles will deputise. John Stones and Muhamed Besic are also absent but Kevin Mirallas could return after a knee injury.

New signing Oumar Niasse is waiting for his visa paperwork to come through so may not be able to feature at the Britannia Stadium.

Final word

The stark reality is that Everton haven’t beaten a side outside of the bottom three since the end of September and haven’t won back-to-back league games all season.

The last week has been nice, but it isn’t any great improvement on what we saw in the first half of the campaign.

A win at the Britannia though would be a tangible sign of progress from a side – and manager – that has flattered to deceive in recent months.

Predicted starting XI: Robles, Baines, Jagielka, Funes Mori, Coleman, Barry, McCarthy, Deulofeu, Barkley, Lennon, Lukaku.