It’s that time of the season when games come thick and fast and every point that is gained or lost will make a bolder impression on the league standings as we approach the proper business end of the campaign. Stoke City will host Everton on Wednesday night in what will be a fairly huge game for both sides but all the more so for the visitors, with the teams pushing for a comfortable top half finish. The Potters will play their second home tie in succession after a vital win against Hull City thanks to that man Peter Crouch again who’s done the job almost instantly after coming off the bench to help his side with a morale lifting 3 points. It’s safe to say Mark Hughes will be under lesser pressure than his Spanish counterpart on Wednesday but his Stoke City look well set to make it 2 wins in 2 at the Britannia when they come up against a rather deflated Everton.
Everton have been a mystery this season. After a relatively poor start to the campaign, the Blues have clearly failed to hit the heights of last season domestically with the side hampered by inconsistencies as much as injuries. Au contraire, Martinez has managed to keep his team alive in the Europa League and the fact that Everton are the lone flag bearers of the Premiership in the competition has boggled many a mind. Domestically this season, Everton sit a lowly 14th in the league with 6 just wins all season and a recent away form that’s as bad as QPR now with only 1 win and 5 losses in the last 6 matches on road which obviously doesn’t make for good reading. They will travel to Stoke on the back of a ‘positive’ 2-0 defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates a scoreline which wasn’t a fair reflection of the game itself at least according to their manager. Martinez said post-Arsenal,
“I thought we controlled the game well, I thought we defended Arsenal very well,The disappointment is to concede a goal from a dead-ball situation [Giroud’s goal having come from a corner]. That is something that you can affect a bit better. The scoreline does not reflect what happened on the pitch, and that is positive. That could be, from our point of view in terms of individual performances and the way that we performed in the second half, the story of our season in the league, and we need to change that. In football you play for results and unfortunately, at the moment, we are not getting what we deserve. Today the performance did not give us a reward in the result, and that is something that has happened too many times this season. We just want to win games consistently and create momentum.”
When the two teams met last time on boxing day at the Goodison Park, it was Stoke City that took home all 3 points through a Bojan spot-kick.
No new injuries for Mark Hughes’ men as Stoke City will continue to miss Bojan and Odemwingie with the duo suffering an ACL ruling them out pretty much for the rest of the season while defender Ryan Shawcross could be missing out on the midweek fixture with a back injury. Stephen Ireland will also remain on the treatment table alongside Muniesa with the pair out for the next three weeks at least.
Everton have got as many as 6 players injured and potential absentees for the trip to the Britannia. Martinez will be without full backs Baines and Oviedo with the former out for the next 10 days while the trio of Steven Pienaar, McGeady and Hibbert could all return by the 14th of March positively.
Stoke are unbeaten in five home league meetings with Everton, though four have ended level (W1).
The Toffees have only mustered three goals in their last five trips to the Britannia Stadium in the Premier League.
The last three meetings between the two sides at the Britannia stadium have all ended 1-1.
Peter Crouch – Stoke City
Crouch was on his business at the weekend doing what he always does best which eventually claimed all 3 points for Stoke City. His header, what was his 46th goal off his head which also moved him alongside Newcastle icon Alan Shearer shows what kind of a threat he can be and has consistently been in the air. Having signed a two year extension at the club, the 34-year old looks rejuvenated and has maybe realized the fact that this could be his last proper stint at an established Premier League club and that could go on to push him to new limits which can be mutually beneficial to him and the football club. He’s scored 7 goals in 24 appearances in the league, some crucial ones at that with a shot accuracy of 33%. He’s been making a solid impact from the bench these days and there’s little doubt that he’s got it in his locker to do the same when his side would face a defensively disjoint Everton come Wednesday.
Gareth Barry – Everton
Gareth Barry played a pivotal role and was central to Everton’s expansive style of play last season. His efficiency in playing the sitting role especially when it came to breaking up opposition attacks and due distribution enabled their pacey full backs in Baines and Coleman to exploit the acres of space in front of them which they did to a scary extent often producing the much needed end product. His influence though has been limited this season which is evident from Everton’s poor showing while a few put that down to the opposition finding them out, I for one would attribute that to the failure in finding the right partner to complement Barry. Gareth has still managed to make 50 successful tackles out of a total 118 while also winning a handsome 54% of headed duels. The fact that he’s made 3 defensive errors this season with 2 of those directly leading to goal has raised question marks about his form and performance levels but the midfielder and his potential battle against N’Zonzi in the middle of the park still holds the key to Everton’s chances of getting a rare away win at the Britannia.
As the cliche goes, can Everton do it on a windy Wednesday night at Stoke? Not so sure about it. I’ll go for the usual (in this case) 1-1 draw. You can back this result which is priced at 11/2 by placing a bet via William Hill by clicking the following link – http://bit.ly/1DUzaxx (UK Link)
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Stoke City 1-1 Everton