Everton vs Stoke City: Match preview and predicted line-ups

Everton host Stoke City this weekend in what will be a fascinating fixture at Goodison Park. These two sides are expected to be challenging for a European spot this season and the match on Saturday will be an indication of where both sides are. In this same fixture last season, Stoke took the three points in a thrilling contest on Boxing Day. The match ended 4-3 to the visitors with Xherdan Shaqiri scoring a goal-of-the-season contender. This weekend shouldn’t provide as many goals, but it should be a great match to watch.

Recent form

The Toffees have started the season in good form under Ronald Koeman and have reversed the losing mentality that built under Roberto Martinez. The managerial change has appeared to have had the desired effect and they should be aiming for a higher finish this campaign. They have taken four points from two matches in the league and also qualified for the next round of the EFL Cup during the week. Their victory over West Brom was hard fought, after they went behind early in the first half. However, Koeman showed he wasn’t afraid to change his formation if things weren’t going well and opted to bring on Romulu Lukaku in the first half. This is a change from Roberto Martinez, who was married to his style of play and this sort of pragmatism is needed in the Premier League.

 

Meanwhile, the visitors on Saturday have yet to pick up three points in the league, but they have had a difficult start. Stoke have had to play Middlesbrough and Manchester City, picking up just one point in the process. The opening day trip to Middlesbrough was a tough one, as it was Boro’s first match back in the Premier League and the players were eager to get off to a good start. The Potters haven’t looked great in the final third during their opening two matches, with their two goals coming from set pieces. A victory in the EFL Cup will have boosted confidence in the camp, but they need to win a game in the league before the malaise sets in.

Predicted line-ups

Everton have started each of their last two league matches with three at the back, but I believe they will change to a 4-2-3-1 this weekend allowing Romulu Lukaku to start for the first time this season. He will give the side more of a presence in the final third and although he didn’t play notably well against West Brom, the midfielders looked more dangerous with the Belgian on the pitch. Yannick Bolasie looked good on his debut and could be set to start on the left, while Kevin Mirallas looks reformed under Ronald Koeman. Ashley Williams is another who could start, but Koeman is likely to stick with the same back line.

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Stoke don’t have a lot of options to change things in their starting eleven. They are a team with a great first team, but lack quality in the squad. Xherdan Shaqiri is closing in on a return and could make the bench on Saturday. It would be a risk to start with him though and not one Mark Hughes should be taking this early in the season. Peter Crouch scored a hat-trick in the EFL Cup, but he doesn’t have the all-around game that Mame Biram Diouf possesses and is unlikely to feature prominently in the league. Jack Butland is nearly back from injury and is going to be back after the international break. Unfortunately this match comes too soon for the England international.

Everton predicted starting XI                             Stoke City predicted starting XI

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Injury/suspensions

Seamus Coleman won’t be back until after the international break, which will allow Mason Holgate to start at right back. The youngster has impressed during the first two matches and there are no guarantees that Coleman will go straight into the side. Muhamed Besic is also going to be missing this weekend with a knee injury.

 

Xherdan Shaqiri is going to return this weekend for Stoke, after missing the side’s last two matches. That is a boost for Mark Hughes as he has the ability to be a match-winner which he showed in this fixture last season. Glen Johnson and Jack Butland won’t return until September, while Ibrahim Afellay and Stephen Ireland are long term concerns.

Our prediction

Stoke City have continued their poor form from the end of last season and they need a couple more additions before the transfer window closes to improve the level of quality beneath the first eleven. They will find it difficult on Merseyside as Everton are revitalised under Ronald Koeman. Stoke struggled against the pressing game of Manchester City last weekend and could have similar difficulties against Everton. Although the Toffees aren’t as good as City, they are relentless on the field and should have enough to beat Stoke. The return to the starting eleven of Romulu Lukaku is a huge boost and I expect the striker to score in a home win.

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