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)
1 Posted 26/12/2014 at 09:45:56
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.
2 Posted 26/12/2014 at 10:01:26
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.
3 Posted 26/12/2014 at 10:05:20
Never mind, I shall be there ready to give my support. Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised...
4 Posted 26/12/2014 at 10:02:59
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.
5 Posted 26/12/2014 at 10:15:15
I hope everyone who's there today sees a great performance ... and result !
7 Posted 26/12/2014 at 10:08:10
Coleman Stones Barry Garbutt
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!
8 Posted 26/12/2014 at 10:19:24
If they start as they have been playing the crowd will turn against them and anything can happen. It is up to Martinez.
9 Posted 26/12/2014 at 10:24:21
10 Posted 26/12/2014 at 10:29:36
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
11 Posted 26/12/2014 at 10:37:44
(oh and the site losing so we go back above them)
12 Posted 26/12/2014 at 10:30:32
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.
13 Posted 26/12/2014 at 10:41:27
14 Posted 26/12/2014 at 10:49:31
Playing Barry centre half today, we'll get murdered.
15 Posted 26/12/2014 at 10:54:50
Crouch does'nt have blistering pace mate.
16 Posted 26/12/2014 at 11:15:06
I am extremely confident we are going to give them a utter spanking. Just had 5-0 on Betfair
17 Posted 26/12/2014 at 11:19:04
18 Posted 26/12/2014 at 11:19:35
19 Posted 26/12/2014 at 11:24:31
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!
20 Posted 26/12/2014 at 11:28:26
21 Posted 26/12/2014 at 11:35:43
22 Posted 26/12/2014 at 11:36:43
hope you all had a Merry Christmas
23 Posted 26/12/2014 at 11:36:38
25 Posted 26/12/2014 at 11:44:14
Stones. Jags. Distin
Coleman. McCarthy/Barry. Baines
26 Posted 26/12/2014 at 11:50:51
27 Posted 26/12/2014 at 11:42:27
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.
28 Posted 26/12/2014 at 11:52:55
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.
29 Posted 26/12/2014 at 11:56:39
30 Posted 26/12/2014 at 12:12:14
31 Posted 26/12/2014 at 12:06:09
32 Posted 26/12/2014 at 12:08:51
33 Posted 26/12/2014 at 12:24:26
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.
35 Posted 26/12/2014 at 12:47:27
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.
36 Posted 26/12/2014 at 12:54:13
37 Posted 26/12/2014 at 12:58:28
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.
38 Posted 26/12/2014 at 12:47:41
39 Posted 26/12/2014 at 12:49:24
A point about Howard; where heÂs looked impressive is the few times that weÂve been under the cosh this season (in particular vs. Wolfsburg) and heÂs had to maintain his concentration levels, he doesnÂt appear to be able to keep that level of concentration when heÂs got little to do. That to me is the most infuriating aspect of the current problems; the goal to chances ratio that weÂre conceding (without the aid of stats in front of me) must be in the region of 70%, and to quote the old clichÃ©, if you donÂt concede youÂve 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 Â– a boring 1-0 with a Crouch og.
40 Posted 26/12/2014 at 12:53:16
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.
41 Posted 26/12/2014 at 13:02:28
42 Posted 26/12/2014 at 13:05:12
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.
43 Posted 26/12/2014 at 13:08:15
44 Posted 26/12/2014 at 13:08:14
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!
45 Posted 26/12/2014 at 13:13:30
46 Posted 26/12/2014 at 13:22:31
47 Posted 26/12/2014 at 13:33:41
48 Posted 26/12/2014 at 13:32:42
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
49 Posted 26/12/2014 at 13:29:39
50 Posted 26/12/2014 at 13:35:47
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.
51 Posted 26/12/2014 at 13:38:06
53 Posted 26/12/2014 at 14:03:55
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.
54 Posted 26/12/2014 at 14:15:52
55 Posted 26/12/2014 at 14:09:07
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.
56 Posted 26/12/2014 at 14:21:32
57 Posted 26/12/2014 at 14:31:02
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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