On the 30th of November, Stoke will travel to Goodison Park to take on Everton. Both teams are performing about how they were expected to at the beginning of the season, with Everton in 7th and Stoke in 14th. Everton are fresh off the game of the year so far in the Premier League against rivals Liverpool. Stoke are coming off their first win since the 31st of August after a comfortable 2-0 win, where they got a favourable red card decision that helped kill off the game for them. Everton will hope to keep their unbeaten record at home this season against a Stoke side who have only been able to grab four points away from home this season.
Both teams are having to deal with some big players missing through injury. Everton are having to deal with three long term injuries to key players Leighton Baines, Arouna Kone, and Darron Gibson. Gibson and Kone both look to be out for the season while Baines will be out for a month after fracturing his toe in the Merseyside derby. Stoke will be missing normal starters Marko Arautovic and Robert Huth. Stoke are looking to get a fitness boost with Kenwyne Jones, Marc Wilson, and Stephen Ireland all looking to be back from injury in time for the game.
Stoke have not won against Everton, in the league, since April 2011. The last time more than two goals were scored in this fixture was in March of 2009. The last four times these teams have played in the league, the score was either 1-0 or 1-1. As mentioned above, Stoke have only won one game since the month of August but, they have also not lost since the 3-2 thriller against Manchester United on the 26th of October. Everton have been the draw specialists this season drawing six games, tied with West Brom for most in the League. Everton have drawn their last three games, not having won since October 26th but have also not lost since October 5th, against the other Manchester team.
The key man for Everton will be the man child that is Romelu Lukaku. Lukaku is coming off a great performance in the Mersyside derby after grabbing two goals. After having a great season out on loan at West Brom last season, Lukaku has actually improved his stats. Last season at the Hawthornes Lukaku was scoring a goal every 112 minutes and had a 21% conversion percentage. While it is still early on, Lukaku has improved on those, raising his conversion percentage to 39% and is scoring a goal every 92 minutes. Last season, one thing Lukaku actually didn’t do well was finish clear cut chances. He missed 16 clear cut chances and only converted nine (36% conversion rate). While the sample size is considerably smaller, Lukaku has only spurned one clear cut chance and converted three (75% conversion rate). Lukaku is hard to handle for every team but last year Stoke did a decent job. Lukaku took part in both of West Brom’s games against Stoke starting one and coming off the bench in the other. Lukaku played a total of 102 minutes and got off only one shot. Lukaku will try to be more effective dealing with the Stoke defence this year and, if he is successful, it will be a very long day for Stoke.
A Stoke player that could have a big impact on this game is Steven N’Zonzi. N’Zonzi has been a monster in the midfield for Stoke this year. Surprisingly enough, N’Zonzi has created 15 chances, more than any other Stoke player this season. N’Zonzi has also attempted more passes than any player on the team and more than double the amount of all non-defenders at Stoke. N’Zonzi has been the link for Stoke between the attack and defence. He has been a dominant player in both offence and defence for the Potters. N’Zonzi has won 80% of his tackles this season and is tied with left back Erick Pieters for most attempted ground duels this season with 101. N’Zonzi is going to be the man that needs to take the ball off Everton’s attacking midfielders, like Ross Barkley, and quickly turn the play over to attack.
While Stoke are always a tough side to play against, at home is a much easier test than Stoke at the Britannia. Stoke have only been able to pick up four points away from home this season and their defensive numbers are significantly worse away from home. At home, Stoke have only conceded three times while on their travels Stoke have conceded 11 times in the same number of games. Not only are Stoke bad away from home but, Everton are a very good home side and have managed to stay unbeaten in their last 11 home matches. Everton are also just a better team to begin with and I see them winning this game pretty comfortably.
Prediction: 3-1 Everton