Stoke will make their second trip of the season to Scouse country with an away day at Goodison Park on Saturday. The Potters have been buoyed by the great fightback at Villa Park two weeks ago, followed by a good win against Bolton at the Brit three days later. The ten day break that followed has given time for any injury niggles to be sorted and the Potters will look to have almost a full squad available for selection.
The Toffeemen are going to be stern opposition as we go still seeking our first away win, but there is nothing the Stoke team like more than to be cast as the underdog – what have we got to lose?
The Potters will have two former Evertonians in their midst – Steve Simonson and James Beattie. Simmo was signed by Everton for a then record £3.3m from local rivals, Tranmere Rovers but failed to make it on Merseyside before moving to Stoke in 2004. Beattie was another who found life difficult at Goodison. But both have proved themselves up to the Premier League task for the Potters.
Everton may be in the FA semi finals but haven’t given up on gaining a Champions League spot. Moyles was adamant that ‘the players know the focus is on Stoke and winning the games which come before the semi-final.’
With that thought in mind he may want to remember what happened when we visited those other Champions League contenders at Villa Park …
Everton Team News:
Jo returns to the starting eleven after being cup-tied for the win against Middlesbrough last weekend. Louis Saha may make his first start since sustaining a hamstring injury at the end of November. He came off the bench to score the winner last weekend. They’ve got their fair share of injuries with James Vaughan still recovering from knee surgery and Yakubu (Achilles) and Victor Anichebe (knee) both ruled out for the season. Andy van der Meyde is another who is out after getting a hamstring injury during training, while Tony Hibbert (thigh), Mikel Arteta and Nuno Valente are also definitely out.
Player to watch: Marouane Fellaini
The Belgium international joined Everton in September for £12m and is instantly recognisable with his George Berry hairstyle. He scored the equaliser for the Toffeemen last weekend
Stoke City Team News:
Tony Pulis will be able to pick from an almost full squad this weekend with Matthew Etherington available for selection after his three match ban. But Matt is more likely to start on the bench as he gives Liam Lawrence another chance. Abdoulaye Faye and Andy Wilkinson seem to have shrugged off knocks sustained during the Bolton win ten days ago.
Player to watch: James Beattie
If there is one person who will be relishing the match at Goodison, it’s Beattie. 5 goals in 7 for Stoke compared with his 13 in 73 for Everton shows that like a good wine, he’s improving with age. It’s quite possible that Beattie could come close to his Everton goal tally in just half a season in the Potteries.
Match Facts & Stats
Andre Mariner. Hopefully, he’ll be fairly anonymous in the middle as we’ve had far worse refs this season. He gave us a break when he disallowed Gerrard’s goal at Anfield earlier in the season. At Portsmouth he went and booked Amdy Faye but wrote down Abdoulaye Faye’s name instead.
Saturday 21st March: Middlesborough (home) kick-off: 3pm
Saturday 4th April: West Brom (away) kick-off: 3pm