Goodison Park will play host to Stoke City on Boxing Day this year as Roberto Martinez and his side look to bounce back from a surprise humbling at the hands of Southampton. With Everton struggling to find the type of form that saw them compete for a Champions League spot till the end of the season, the blue half of Merseyside will be looking to a home game against Stoke to give them reason to feel the festive cheer of Christmas and the present of 3 points. Three losses in their last 6 is hardly confident form for a side with the quality of Everton, however their opponents Stoke have lost 4 of their last 6 only picking up a single victory in that run. A Boxing Day fixture can usually throw up all manner of surprises, meaning this home game is not a certainty for Everton to pick up the win. This Stoke side is indifferent but they have been capable of up picking up 2 victories over Man City and Arsenal. It’s obvious that if they so decide to turn up and perform they are capable of beating anyone in the league.
The home side are set to continue without some key members of their squad. Kevin Mirallas and James McCarthy are names that stick out. The two were lynch-pins in Everton’s starting 11 last season that saw them compete for Champions League qualification. McCarthy’s work rate and ball retention is vital to Everton’s midfield and Mirallas is bottled talent that can burst in to life and change any game at the drop of a coin. Other names in the physio room for the Toffee’s are: Leon Osman, Tony Hibbert, Darron Gibson and Christian Atsu. Gibson has been struggling with injuries for the past year and he is the type of player fans would like to see step in during McCarthy’s time out with injuries but unfortunately he cannot. Leon Osman is a player who can be counted on to step in and do his job when needed. A Premier League veteran who during this busy schedule will be a miss for Everton as the team will need rest and rotation, something Osman would slip into flawlessly once he is again available.
Stoke City’s injury list currently hosts names such as Stephen Ireland, Peter Odemwingie, Victor Moses, Steve Sidwell and Dionatan Texeira. Ireland, usually a creative influence for the Potters, is a miss to a side in need of a creative edge. Steven Sidwell is a miss in the middle of the park as his industry and ball winning capabilities are of use on any away day. With wingers such as Bojan and Assaidi available perhaps Moses isn’t the biggest loss to this Stoke side, whereas they are still waiting on the return of Odemwingie whose goals would be appreciated at this time of the season to help get some festive points on the board for Mark Hughes’ side.
- Everton have lost only two of their 12 Barclays Premier League meetings with Stoke City (W5 D5 L2).
- Mark Hughes has won two of his 16 BPL matches as a coach against his former club Everton (W2 D8 L6).
- Roberto Martinez has never been on the losing side as a coach against Stoke City (W3 D7 L0).
- Only West Ham (12) have scored more headed goals this season than Everton (six).
Everton: Ross Barkley
If Everton want to turn their season around and show the potential all neutrals saw in their side last year, Ross Barkley needs to start running the show again. He is a young guy and no-one is saying his form has been poor this year since returning from injury but last season he was something special. I personally feel he has the ability to be the best thing England have produced since Paul Gascoigne in terms of ability. As a result every single game Everton play Ross Barkley should be looking to be the key man. He should be picking up the ball, driving past 3 players, slipping balls out wide, making late runs from midfield, battling back and winning the ball. I feel Barkley should set the tone for his Everton side and the match as a whole. We’ve seen how good he can be and of course the level of performance will never be the same every week, but he should be considered the catalyst for what could be a good Everton performance. He is a player with the capability to look at his team’s form and look at Stoke City’s form and look at the Boxing Day fixture and say “we are leaving with 3 points”. He has one goal so far this season and I believe this could be added to on Boxing Day because I believe he is a player who will not be happy with Everton’s recent results.
Stoke City: Bojan Krkic
Much the same as Barkley should look to be Everton’s Key player every week, so should Bojan Krkic for Stoke City. Not many players in the Premier League have a better pedigree than Bojan Krkic. Very recently, while breaking through the Barcelona youth ranks he was dubbed the next Messi, has been capped for Spain and played for some of the European game’s top sides (Ajax, AC Milan). He should be the biggest coup in Stoke’s history. Admittedly he has never quite lived up to his hype but that can tend to happen when people expect you reach the talent levels of someone as extraterrestrial as Lionel Messi. However, at a team like Stoke (no disrespect to them and the stature of their club) Bojan should be the first name on the team sheet and first person they all want to pass the ball to. In recent weeks his class has began to show in fits and spurts as he starts to acclimatise to the physical nature of the league. If there is ever a time for Bojan to start proving his doubters wrong it is in the Premier League, and at a team like Stoke he should stick out like a sore thumb in their squad and potentially use it as a move back to one of Europe’s elite teams where he will feel he belongs. With Everton’s defensive woes as of late his direct attacking nature will be a threat they are not looking forward to dealing with and if anyone could help Stoke pick up points at Goodison it will be this diminutive Spaniard.
I’d usually be more confident about a home win for Everton but their recent inconsistent form has left reason to be concerned over confidence within the side. The 3-0 against a Southampton side that had been beaten 4 on the bounce was a disappointment and the type of game Everton really should be winning if they have any ambition of recreating the near success they had last season. However, inconsistency doesn’t come much grander than in the form of Stoke City. They are either brilliant and firing on all cylinders, or disappointing and lacklustre. There is quality within Mark Hughes’ squad but there seems to be a problem with consistently putting in the performance they are capable of both attacking and defensively. On Boxing Day I can see Everton picking up the 3 points but it will by know means be an easy ride for them, with Stoke putting up their usual stubborn resistance.