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Everton vs Stoke City

by | 26/12/2014  Comments (53)  jump
Match Preview

Everton face one of the more important matches of Roberto Martinez's reign as they face Stoke City needing to produce a performance and a result that would re-establish their dminishing top-four credentials.

Last weekend's dismal defeat at Southampton intensified scrutiny of the Blues' defensive frailties and their attacking impotence and Mark Hughes's uncompromising side will do their hosts no favours.

Indeed, the Potters are one of the last teams you'd wish to face when you're in need of a good result but Everton's home record against them is a good one and Stoke haven't won on the road since beating Tottenham at White Hart Lane on 9th November... although that result is enough to sound a warning to Martinez ahead of this Boxing Day clash.

The good news is that three key players are expected to be available and allow the manager to field his strongest possible XI. Kevin Mirallas and James McCarthy should be fit to play after recovering from hamstring and ankle injuries respectively, while John Stones is likely to come off the standby list to make his first appearance since early October.

Leon Osman, Darron Gibson and Tony Hibbert are all expected to miss out along with Christian Atsu who is back at his parent club, Chelsea, recovering from a hamstring injury.

Stoke meanwhile, who come into the game two places and two points worse off than the Toffees, will give Peter Crouch a late fitness test on a neck injury and check on the health of Steven Ireland's knee.

There has been talk in the Everton camp of the need to "go on a run" of results but such has been the fits-and-starts nature of the campaign so far that the team just needs to take one game at a time and focus on finding a way to win, however ugly.

Certainly, a top-six finish will take a phenomenal run of form over the second half of the campaign but the manager and his players first need to rediscover the fearless and enterprising football that won them so many admirers — not to mention points! — last season.

Referee: Lee Mason
Kick off: 3pm


Reader Comments (53)

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Derek Knox
1 Posted 26/12/2014 at 09:45:56
Just hope we can get a decent result today, but above all hope to see positive signs that we can play as a fully functioning unit, in all areas and get back to delivering entertaining football.

Any more poor results and displays will surely diminish any chances of attaining a respectable finish at the end of the season, I know top four is 'pie in the sky' but if we can salvage something and entertain, the foundation can be there for next season. I am still hopeful of getting a good run in the Europa, and with a bit of luck, should we win it, we will be in the CL play off's.

So come on, give us a good display and restore some pride.

Neil Wood
2 Posted 26/12/2014 at 10:01:26
Good Morning fellow Evertonians.

I feel like I keep saying this bit a MUST WIN game today. Anything less and even someone as optimistic as me will be pushed to have any positives.
Just reading on the other post about the return possibility of Del Boy .... At 8 million.
I guarantee you that 8 million would be the bargain of the century for this lad. He has had his critics on here and some with valid points however, he is learning and will be one of the very best.
Compare with the likes of a Tom Ince who was touted around at similar fees.... Absolutely no comparison.
To get someone like Del Boy who would technically be one of the best players certainly in more modern times to grace Goodison would be a massive boost.
I remember how a certain Mr Rooney used to get the whole place on their feet... This lad will do the same and some.

Joe Clitherow
3 Posted 26/12/2014 at 10:05:20
We need a bit of luck, and then we see the ref is... Lee Mason, which is second only to seeing Jon Moss, who refereed against Southampton (not that he contributed at all to that debacle).

Never mind, I shall be there ready to give my support. Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised...

James Marshall
4 Posted 26/12/2014 at 10:02:59
Stoke have won away at City, Sunderland and Spurs this season - we lost those same 3 fixtures, all by a single goal I think.

They lost 2-0 away to Chelsea last time out but gave them a decent game from what I heard too, so this will be no walk in the park.

Another point I'd like to pick up on is this perceived 'defensive frailty'. My take on it is not just a defensive issue, in that our back 4 (5) are struggling, but that the problem stems from further up the pitch and the way we play.

We're so open because our full backs are so high up the pitch all the time, that more often than not, it's Jagielka and Distin left exposed with players running at them when teams break on us. It happened time & time again against Southampton and Martinez does nothing about it.

I feel genuinely sorry for our centre halves playing in this system because they come under fire from supporters, but are being forced to play in a system that undermines them as individuals. It is simply not their 'defensive frailty' as keeps being mentioned - it has everything to do with the way we play as a team that leaves them under immense pressure from start to finish.

Our strikers don't pressure defenders enough, and we don't work hard enough to win the ball back when we lose it. Martinez wants us to play like Barca, but you watch Barca when they lose the ball - they swarm teams and win in back constantly. We do not do this, and teams break on us all the time, which I believe is where our perceived frailty at the back comes from.

Anyway, aside from that, I think a draw will be about as good as it gets today - Martinez won't change the way we play, but hopefully he won't play Barkley, Lukaku and Eto'o in the starting lineup as we all know it never works, and perhaps he'll wise-up and play with a bit more width today.

If not, its gonna be another long afternoon.

Michael Evans
5 Posted 26/12/2014 at 10:15:15
Very happy memories of Goodison on Boxing day.

I hope everyone who's there today sees a great performance ... and result !

Mark Frere
7 Posted 26/12/2014 at 10:08:10
I hope Mirallas, McCarthy and Stones have all recovered sufficiently to start this one; if so, I would like Martinez to make changes to the starting line-up and send a message to our underperforming players that poor performances will result in them being dropped.

Coleman Stones Barry Garbutt
McCarthy Besic
Mcgeady Barkley Mirallas

Would like to see Kone introduced at some point - and FFS, don't play Barkley and Naismith out wide, and make full use of our subs, that's what they are there for!

Dave Abrahams
8 Posted 26/12/2014 at 10:19:24
All Everton have to do is come out with a positive attitude and have a go and the crowd will get behind them, no matter what the result is.

If they start as they have been playing the crowd will turn against them and anything can happen. It is up to Martinez.

James Marshall
9 Posted 26/12/2014 at 10:24:21
Mark Frere - you want to see Barry play centre half with Stones who isn't match fit? That's suicide, especially against the towering Peter Crouch!!
John Keating
10 Posted 26/12/2014 at 10:29:36
If there are two games a season in which we need Howard to command the area they are against Stoke.
This particular game more so we need a huge effort in defence especially from set pieces.
Think I,d play Stones Jags and Distin as back 3 with Coleman and Baines as wing backs.
McCarthy if fit in front of defence
Besic and Barkley centre midfield
Naismith just behind Lukaku
Sharabi Singh
11 Posted 26/12/2014 at 10:37:44
1-0 win and no injuries is all I want for Xmas.
(oh and the site losing so we go back above them)
Gavin McGarvey
12 Posted 26/12/2014 at 10:30:32
If we see, McCarthy and Mirallas back then we shoudl be back to more or less the team that RM played last year. The manager's performance at Southampton had me worried, hopefully he turns things round starting now.

Obviously Midfield is the key. Presumably it will be McCarthy and Barry in the centre. Will he play Mirallas on the right and Pienaar on the left? If not will he bring on McGeady presumably in Pienaar's place? Will he play Naismith or Barkley behind Lukaku?

The fact that there are so many questions around team selection tells you everything you need to know about our season so far. Hopefully our manager has a firm plan in place for getting at Stoke, and also a couple of plan B's in case plan A doesn't work out. I really want RM to do well, and I hope he still has the support of the team as well. Nevertheless he needs to start getting some quality performances from the team starting here. COYB.

Mark Frere
13 Posted 26/12/2014 at 10:41:27
No James, Jags and Distin's defending was suicidal against the Saints and on that basis they should be dropped. Barry has played part of his career as a CB...and both Stones and Barry are comfortable bringing the ball out of defence, so it will eradicate all the pissing about with the ball in our own half that we've been seeing from Jags and Distin. Anyway, Jags and Distin are hardly the most dominant headers of the ball on the evidence of Saints game and many other games for that matter.
James Marshall
14 Posted 26/12/2014 at 10:49:31
Mark - read my post further up the thread for my take on our defending. On that basis, Barry would be even worse as Jags & Distin have more pace.

Playing Barry centre half today, we'll get murdered.

Mark Frere
15 Posted 26/12/2014 at 10:54:50
Your post doesn't explain anything James... apart from our 2 CBs need better protection, which I agree with. Besic and McCarthy playing together should help as they both have great engines and can cover for Full-backs and protect the back 4.

Crouch does'nt have blistering pace mate.

Graham Mockford
16 Posted 26/12/2014 at 11:15:06
I am currently sat in Brisbane on my third bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. I fucking sick of all this negativity, Martinez out FFS!

I am extremely confident we are going to give them a utter spanking. Just had 5-0 on Betfair

Graham Mockford
17 Posted 26/12/2014 at 11:19:04
I hope my old English teacher doesn't read that last post!
Colin Glassar
18 Posted 26/12/2014 at 11:19:35
Good for you Graham. A bit of optimism would do us all the world of good. Too much despondency on here (justified) lately. COYB, lets's batter these inbreds.
James Marshall
19 Posted 26/12/2014 at 11:24:31
Mark - it explains how the problems we have at the back are a team issue, not a centre half issue. Our centre backs are often on the halfway line chasing back when teams break on us, and you want one of them to be Gareth Barry? He has no pace, and Jags & Distin have plenty of pace.

I see no justification for Barry as centre half, today or ever!

Barry is also shit in the air - Crouch is 11ft tall. You do the maths!

Mark Frere
20 Posted 26/12/2014 at 11:28:26
James, the goals we conceded against Saints were Jags and Distin's fault. The goals came from crosses into the box which Distin and Jags should have dealt with - it should have been bread and butter stuff for the pair to deal with. My original point was, players need dropping for putting in dire displays. We will just have to agree to disagree.
Gerard Carey
21 Posted 26/12/2014 at 11:35:43
If we are back to near full strength, play players in their proper positions, with a bit of urgency we can get the three points. Depends on Roberto's team selection. Square pegs in round holes does not work as we have seen.
Ian Jones
22 Posted 26/12/2014 at 11:36:43
4-0 to Everton.

hope you all had a Merry Christmas

Al Reddish
23 Posted 26/12/2014 at 11:36:38
Gareth Barry's own form has been terrible this season so he shouldn't even be on the pitch, let alone in defence! When our fullbacks push up, it has been Besic helping the centre backs out while Barry wanders aimlessly around the middle of the park and letting runners glide past him. Not too good seeing s he is meant to be a defensive midfielder.
John Keating
25 Posted 26/12/2014 at 11:44:14
Stones. Jags. Distin
Coleman. McCarthy/Barry. Baines
Besic. Barkley
Colin Glassar
26 Posted 26/12/2014 at 11:50:51
Pity Hibbo is injured, I'd have dropped Seamus for him. Coleman has been below average this season and needs the proverbial kick up his backside.
Rob Halligan
27 Posted 26/12/2014 at 11:42:27
If everyone fit and available, my team would be:

Howard, Coleman, Stones, Jags, Baines. Besic, Barkley, McCarthy, Mirallas, Naismith, Lukaku.

McCarthy as the holding midfielder, Besic and Ross centre mid, lukaku to play up front, IN THE MIDDLE, Naismith running his bollocks off just behind lukaku and maybe covering Baines. Mirallas to provide the ammunition for Lukaku.

A team to beat anybody in this league, and will hammer stoke 5-0 today.

Raymond Fox
28 Posted 26/12/2014 at 11:52:55
Sorry chaps but I am not at all confident of a result in this game, I watched their match against Chelsea and I can guarantee our players will be black and blue at the end of the game!

We performed terrible against crosses in the Southampton game, both Jags and Distin were in place to clear all 3 but they seemed to never get off the ground, if we had replacements I'd drop the both of them.
You can bet your life the crosses will be whizzing into our box today for their big bruisers, and I can see them scoring.
We need to score 2 or more to win this one, but I'm expecting a much more determined effort off our player and we need to go on a all out attack.

Tony Twist
29 Posted 26/12/2014 at 11:56:39
Merry Christmas to all ToffeeWebers. Plain and simple it shows how far we have fallen when we are apprehensive with a visit of Stoke City. We haven't a clue whether our team will turn up or not. A win is a must, we are on the slippery slope and being pulled into the mire, Goodison needs to be a place to fear again for visiting teams starting today with Stoke. Team should be Howard, Coleman, Stones, Jags, Garbutt, Mccarthy, Barkley, Besic, Naismith, Kone and Lukaku. I think 2 up front is a must, Garbutt should have his chance in the side and Lukaku days are numbered in my opinion unless he knuckles down and works harder to create opportunities by more movement and basically putting himself about. COYB.
Al Reddish
30 Posted 26/12/2014 at 12:12:14
Agree with you Colin. Would love to see Hibbo today. Coleman has been shit this season and Hibbert never let us down once when he played this season. We looked more solid at the back as he is a defender that defends and this gives the player in front of him more licence to roam.
Steve Carse
31 Posted 26/12/2014 at 12:06:09
Just coincidence it's the Festive period, but we're so bad defensively I'd go for the 'Christmas Tree' set up, with all three of Besic, Barry and McCarthy sat in front of an orthodox back four to afford it maximum protection and still allow the FBs to get forward. We could then have two more creative players (Barkley and either Mirallas or Naismith) free to get forward and support the sole front man,Lukaku.
Max Wilson
32 Posted 26/12/2014 at 12:08:51
Quite a few of us have gone off Barry. I'm sorry I can't agree with them. He's been putting in a good shift every time he's played lately when others have been making mistakes and/or fading out of the game. This is'nt just my opinion, it's also been that of the newspaper pundits watching our games.He was one of our better players at Soton along with Barkley and Luke when the rest were pretty dismal. Crosses will be flying into our goal area to-day, lets hope we don't repeat that dreadful display of defending them of seven days ago. COYB.
Ron Sear
33 Posted 26/12/2014 at 12:24:26
Interesting example of the word 'Pivotal' in an English dictionary:

The results over the next few weeks are now pivotal to the entire campaign.
(Liverpool Daily Post and Echo 2003)

Perhaps it should be modified to:

The Boxing Day game between Everton and Stoke in 2014.

James Byrne
35 Posted 26/12/2014 at 12:47:27
Probably one of the most emotional days of the season - this game falls right after all the festives are taken care of, the family are happy so it's back to Goodison to cheer on the blues.

This is one of the biggest games in years and one we have to win for all kinds of reasons. A loss today will see the home crowd erupt........losing today is not a fucking option!

The team and the manager need to man up and earn the wages - we've been too nice for too long and it's bollox.

A watershed game if ever there was one.

Eddie Dunn
36 Posted 26/12/2014 at 12:54:13
Concerning Coleman's poor form, do we know if he is completely over the injuries that kept him out for so long?
James Marshall
37 Posted 26/12/2014 at 12:58:28
Mark - fair enough, we'll agree to disagree.

Just on Barry more generally - he has been rubbish this season, and I wouldn't even play him in midfield today.

Jagielka as both captain and the fastest player we have should play every game - hoping we'll be a bit more solid in midfield today to give the defence a bit more protection. Remember, we're talking about the same tactical brain that got Wigan relegated.

Mike Childs
38 Posted 26/12/2014 at 12:47:41
Thrilled that Jimmy Mac could be back today. Garbutt should start for Baines and Kone for Lukaku. I lean towards Mark suggestion of Barry and Stones at CB. Barry may lack some pace but Besic and Jimmy Mac can help. Guess we didn't get Phil's Christmas wish.
David Hallwood
39 Posted 26/12/2014 at 12:49:24
Ian Jones (#22) 4-0 to Everton, I think youÂ’ve had a merrier Christmas than me! A clean sheet would do nicely thank you very much, IÂ’d even take a last-game-on-MotD tedious 0-0 draw.

A point about Howard; where he’s looked impressive is the few times that we’ve been under the cosh this season (in particular vs. Wolfsburg) and he’s had to maintain his concentration levels, he doesn’t appear to be able to keep that level of concentration when he’s got little to do. That to me is the most infuriating aspect of the current problems; the goal to chances ratio that we’re conceding (without the aid of stats in front of me) must be in the region of 70%, and to quote the old cliché, if you don’t concede you’ve got points on the board.

Agree with the majority view on the team selection, young legs over old and play everyone in the favoured positions – a boring 1-0 with a Crouch og.

Ernie Baywood
40 Posted 26/12/2014 at 12:53:16
Our defending has been shite but it's down to us putting ourselves under pressure. For all the criticism of Baines and Coleman's performances (some warranted) I haven't seen many proposed solutions.

The answer for me is to get better options in these central midfield positions. Teams have got very comfortable waiting until the ball gets to our full backs then squeezing them. They force us into playing to Barry and Besic knowing that it is simply going back to the centre backs again. Then we repeat the whole tiresome affair.

Change the midfield. Put two players in there who want to receive the ball and turn to face the way we're playing. If we get decent possession up the pitch our full backs will join the attack.

Personally I'm hoping to see Ross given some responsibility in the middle. Failing that, Osman, Pienaar, even Baines himself.

Graham Mockford
41 Posted 26/12/2014 at 13:02:28
Colin Glassar
42 Posted 26/12/2014 at 13:05:12
If all fit my team would be:

Howard (no other option sadly)
Coleman (only cos Hibbo is injured)
Garbutt (Bainsey has been poor this season)

Probably Besic will be dropped for Barry and Bainsey is now an untouchable but that would be my team today.

Jamie Barlow
43 Posted 26/12/2014 at 13:08:15
Or whether both our full backs are being held back by shite tactics Eddie.
James Marshall
44 Posted 26/12/2014 at 13:08:14
The reason we concede so much pressure and then make mistakes is because we're wide open at the back - our full backs spend half the game in the opposition half and we pretty much play with 2 at the back.

Suicide football ala Wigan, just with slightly better players. It's finally starting to bite him on the arse like a lot of us feared it could. I hope it fixes itself ASAP!

Eddie Dunn
45 Posted 26/12/2014 at 13:13:30
Let's hope the tactics are on the mend then Jamie!
Colin Glassar
46 Posted 26/12/2014 at 13:22:31
Jamie Barlow, personally I think as defenders Baines and Coleman are really quite average. They stand off their opponents far too much allowing them to get in a cross, or pass, 9/10. They don't really tackle do they? And they're not headers of the ball. All in all, they are quite deficient. Now going forward they are brilliant, on their day, but defensively they leave a lot to be desired.
James Marshall
47 Posted 26/12/2014 at 13:33:41
Spot on, Colin. They're modern full backs, which seems to be what people want now - look at people like Dani Alves who everyone raves about. He couldn't defend himself from a marauding puppy with a headache.
Brian Hennessy
48 Posted 26/12/2014 at 13:32:42
A defining moment in our season and RM career today for me.

If he doesn't learn from his selection mistakes and cannot get this group of players to raise their performance levels, I worry for his future.

Last weeks defeat should have been a wake up call for all

Darren Robinson-Cooke
49 Posted 26/12/2014 at 13:29:39
Any team news yet?
Jimmy Salt
50 Posted 26/12/2014 at 13:35:47
Happy Christmas all,
I'm going to jump on the confident band wagon today. Lets face it if the manager and players don't realise the performances lately have been rubbish then they never will. Or are they just not able to adapt and overcome?
Its put up or shut up time. 3-0 to the blues.
Sondre Haga
51 Posted 26/12/2014 at 13:38:06
1-0 Everton. Naismith 89th minute. We'll have plenty of possession in this game, just hope we use it wisely. To get pace in our passing game will be crucial, make them run and get tired, not just walk and pass for the sake of passing.
Jamie Barlow
53 Posted 26/12/2014 at 14:03:55
Yeah, I agree Colin. What full backs do stop crosses these days though? They all seem to stand off and let crosses come in.
Our full backs don't seem to be playing as they did last season do they? If it is tactics and not an injury to Coleman, Martinez should let them play as they did last season and not hinder our biggest threat.
Dan Brierley
54 Posted 26/12/2014 at 14:15:52
McCarthy back in, Besic dropped and not Barry. What a fucking joke! Mirallas in for Eto'o, Stones for Distin.
Ernie Baywood
55 Posted 26/12/2014 at 14:09:07
James I don't agree they're costing us goals by being in the opposition half. Of late, they spend their game stood alongside the centre backs waiting for slow motion passes that they can roll back again under pressure. Decent defenders and exceptional attacking full backs - we're not using them to their strengths by not getting them forward enough and not having a midfielder ahead of them when they do get there.

There's possibly only Chelsea who wouldn't gladly swap for our pair of full backs. Garbutt looks good but a like for like doesn't fix the problem. And as for bringing in Hibbo... I'm not sure what people are thinking.

Ernie Baywood
56 Posted 26/12/2014 at 14:21:32
Stones, Kev and J McC all start.
James Marshall
57 Posted 26/12/2014 at 14:31:02
Ernie - I'm talking about when we don't have the ball. We tend not to concede goals when we're knocking it across the back four ;)

When we lose it high up the pitch with Coleman & Baines way up the pitch, we get murdered on the break. This may not cost us a goal every time, but how often do you see Jags and Distin having to run full pelt back toward our goal? Again & again in every game. It creates pressure, wears them out an we concede silly goals as a result.

It's just one of our tactical issues IMO

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