Stoke City will be aiming to secure victory for the first time in four Premier League matches as they attempt to do the double over fellow mid-table side Everton for the second season in succession.
Since overcoming Norwich City on January 13, there have been few highlights for Stoke, who are out of both cup competitions and have now lost their last two league games by a 3-0 margin, rarely threatening a goal on either occasion despite the number of creative players they have going forward. To make matters worse they are depleted in defence, with Glen Johnson having to fill in as an emergency centre-back at Manchester United after the withdrawal of Philipp Wollscheid.
But they remain a club with real ambition and that was proven once again when they pulled off the biggest deal of transfer deadline day, breaking their transfer record to sign FC Porto midfielder Gianelli Imbula. The Potters will be hoping that he can provide the sort of powerful midfield presence that Steven N’Zonzi did so effectively before leaving last summer, and give the side a greater balance, and if he makes his debut here it will be fascinating to see how he matches up to experienced campaigner Gareth Barry.
There was relief all round at Everton on Wednesday evening as they recorded just their second win in 11 Premier League matches against struggling Newcastle United, with two late Ross Barkley penalty kicks giving the final score a convincing look. But in fairness they were the superior side throughout and created most of the chances on a occasion where manager Roberto Martinez was left to hail the recent performances of Ross Barkley.
Although John Stones misses out through injury, perhaps he was due to be taken out of the firing line somewhat following a challenging run of games, but recent returnee Phil Jagielka seems to have made a huge difference and will give his team a better chance here of handling the dangerous Marko Arnautovic. Going forward, the Toffees will be very confident of exploiting Stoke’s defender shortage, with their vast array of attacking options having been added to by new signing Oumar Niasse.
Marc Muniesa is likely to be the only fit central defender for Stoke as Wollscheid is doubtful, while Ryan Shawcross, Geoff Cameron and Marc Wilson are all out.
Stones is still sidelined for Everton along with goalkeeper Tim Howard and midfielder Muhamed Besic. Elsewhere, top scorer Romelu Lukaku will be assessed as he nurses a back problem.
Last Meeting: Fears that Everton could be a surprise relegation casualty were alive after they were comfortably beaten 2-0 by an impressive Stoke in March 2015. The opener was a brilliant header from Victor Moses of all people, glancing the ball in from Phil Bardsley’s cross; and the win was sealed late on by striker Mame Biram Diouf, who turned the ball in after Marko Arnautovic had been denied by a post.