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Everton hoping to continue momentum against Stoke

Toffees welcome Potters to Goodison Park

Everton v Stoke City - Premier League Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images

It’s perhaps easy to forget amongst all the transfer speculation that there is, in fact, a game to be played on Saturday afternoon.

Joe Hart, Lucas Perez and Manolo Gabbiadini have dominated the headlines this week as supporters grow increasingly edgy about the club’s summer recruitment.

The much rumoured “£100m warchest” hasn’t materialised and it seems the supporters need to lower their expectations, at least in the short-term.

However, all the transfer speculation shouldn’t distract from what has been an extremely encouraging start by the team under Ronald Koeman’s stewardship.

Four points from their opening two games and comfortable progress in the League Cup has further fuelled already soaring optimism levels among the supporters.

Another encouraging result against Stoke before the international break as well as a productive end to the transfer window and we’ll need to peel some fans off the roof.

The opposition

It has been a frustrating summer so far for Mark Hughes and his Stoke City side.

Hopes were high after the Welshman guided the club to a third successive top-half finish last campaign.

Stoke are an established Premier League side now as they begin their ninth successive season in the top flight but the fans are eager to see continued progress.

The Potters have made just one major signing in the form of Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen, though Hughes remains hopeful of completing a few late deals.

On the pitch they have endured a patchy start, drawing at Middlesbrough on the opening day before being thumped 4-1 by an admittedly in-form Manchester City side.

Stoke have fond memories of Goodison Park after their dramatic 4-3 victory last December in one of the most defining matches of Roberto Martinez’s tenure on Merseyside.

The game was calamitous as it was thrilling, as Everton twice came from behind before tossing away a 3-2 lead in the final ten minutes.

Indeed the Potters are going for a Goodison hat-trick after beating Everton 1-0 on a depressingly soggy Boxing Day in 2014.

Hughes will desperately hoping for a result to kick-start their campaign.

Team news

After making their full debuts in the EFL Cup on Tuesday Ashley Williams and Yannick Bolasie could make their first Premier League starts for Everton at Goodison Park.

Romelu Lukaku is also expected to start as he builds up his match fitness following a pre-season heel injury.

James McCarthy, Darron Gibson and Tom Cleverley are doubts and will be assessed while Seamus Coleman remains sidelined with an ankle injury.

Stoke are hopeful Xherdan Shaqiri – who scored a spectacular goal in the corresponding fixture last season – while be fit after an ankle injury to return to the side.

The Potters will definitely still be without defender Glen Johnson and goalkeeper Jack Butland, meaning 40-year Shay Given is set to start in goal.

Final word

Everton have a number of Martinez ghosts to lay to rest this season and gaining revenge on Stoke for last December’s horror show would be a nice way to start.

There should be no shortage of confidence and last weekend’s come-from-behind win at West Brom.

The victory at the Hawthorns, inspired by a early substitution, demonstrated the options available to Koeman and his ability to utilise them when needed – something his predecessor struggled to do.

I’m hopeful this new look Everton will have what it takes to get a result and secure Everton’s best start to a season for 10 years.

Predicted Everton XI: Stekelenberg, Baines, Jagielka, Williams, Holgate, Barry, Gueye, Mirallas, Barkley, Bolasie, Lukaku.