Tony Pulis will be hoping his side continue their good run of form when Everton visit the Britannia on Saturday afternoon. Their 0-0 draw away at Aston Villa last week extended their unbeaten run to six leaves them ninth in the table. Their home form, like many Stoke seasons, has been the foundation of their success. They remain unbeaten in seven home games with draws against Manchester City and Arsenal the highlights so far.
Everton grabbed their first win in four last Sunday as two injury time goals from Steven Pienaar and Nikica Jelavic gave them a 2-1 over Tottenham Hotspur. They are well known for their slow starts to a season but this year has bucked the trend. David Moyes will be hoping their current position of fourth is a sign of things to come.
In the reverse fixture last season managerial magic from Pulis swung the game. A disastrous own goal from Peter Crouch gave Everton the lead. Pulis made a triple substitution which paid off immediately as substitute Cameron Jerome grabbed an equaliser. The game finished 1-1 which stretched Stoke’s unbeaten home run to six while Everton increased their lead over Merseyside rivals to three points.
Stoke will welcome back summer signing Charlie Adam after suspension but Ryan Shotton will miss out after his red card at Aston Villa. Peter Crouch will be looking to regain his starting place from Kenwyne Jones after making a Cameo at Villa Park last week. Michael Owen will be looking to make an impact after a succession of injuries has thwarted his progress so far.
Belgian Kevin Mirallas looks set to be involved after David Moyes insisted his half-time withdrawal was precautionary. Captain Phil Neville is still absent after recovering from knee surgery.
Ones to watch
An ever present figure in Stoke’s side this season has been the ROI international Jonathan Walters. He has played as a striker this season but mainly provides the width on the right hand side of the five man midfield. His three goals this season have been vital but his defensive capabilities will be vital against a dangerous Everton side. This season he has provided excellent cover winning 81% of the tackles he has made. This will have to continue if Stoke are to combat Everton’s deadly left side duo of Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar and continue their impressive home record.
A game at the Britannia will ultimately test the physicality of the away side so Belgian Marouane Fellaini will be vital if their result is to be a positive one. The 25-year-old has flourished in his advanced role this season scoring eight goals. He has been devastating in the air this season and his final third passing accuracy of 71% shows that when he wins it, he uses the ball efficiently. If the duo of Baines and Pienaar continue to give Jelavic and Fellaini exceptional service then Stoke’s unbeaten home record could be a thing of the past.
Every visiting side will get a tough test at the Britannia and this season has been no exception. Everton though have impressed me with their ability to create chances. Baines and Pienaar have caused havoc down the left hand side while Fellaini, Jelavic, Naismith and Mirallas are constant goal threats. Despite Stoke’s impressive defensive record I expect Everton to sneak this with Fellaini finding the net yet again.
Prediction: Stoke 1-2 Everton