Everton vs. Stoke: Complete Premier League Preview

Matt Cheetham@@Matt_CheethamCorrespondent IMarch 28, 2013

STOKE-ON-TRENT, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15: Jonathan Walters (C) and Ryan Shawcross (floor) of Stoke City in action with Phil Jagielka and Marouane Fellaini of Everton during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Everton at the Britannia Stadium on December 15, 2012, in Stoke-on-Trent, England. (Photo by Paul Thomas/Getty Images)
Paul Thomas/Getty Images

With the international break concluded, attention once again switches to domestic matters and the home stretch of several league campaigns.

For Everton, that involves the visit of Stoke City in Saturday's Premier League clash.

Fresh off the back of an impressive home win over Manchester City, the Toffees know nothing but a repeat result can maintain their slim hopes of Champions League football next season.

Sitting eleventh in the table on 34 points, Stoke will be all-too aware they are not yet mathematically safe and will be looking for a win to solidify their status.


Form and Previous Meetings

Everton have seen some initial success against Stoke begin to wane, with the Toffees unable to win any of the previous four encounters, holding just one victory in the past six.

After winning three and drawing two of the first five contests to follow Stoke's 2008 promotion, David Moyes' overall record now stands at three wins, four draws and two defeats.

The Toffees have endured an inconsistent 2013, with three wins, three draws and two losses in their previous eight matches.

However, Stoke's form has been truly dire. Three draws and one solitary win is all the Potters have to show from their last 11 Premier League games—including five straight away defeats.


Team News

The Toffees have a growing absentee list, with Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar suspended for the first of two games following cards received against Manchester City.

Elsewhere, Phil Jagielka, Tim Howard and Tony Hibbert appear unlikely to return from injury, potentially leaving Moyes without five first-choice starters.

Stoke are fortunate enough to boast a relatively clean bill of health, with Glenn Whelan fit enough for international duty and Robert Huth having served his recent suspension.


Key Players

Huth will be crucial for Stoke. The German has kept the Potters back four impressively organised and disciplined in recent clashes between this pair, with Everton unable to create many clear-cut chances.

The Toffees managed just two shots on target in December's 1-1 draw, as Stoke's height, coupled with some bruising physicality proved a tough combination for David Moyes' side to better.

For that reason, Nikica Jelavic will be key for the hosts.

Having finally broken his scoring drought against Manchester City, Everton will need their striker to be clinically ruthless in front of goal and finish any chance that comes his way—especially with the likes of Pienaar and Fellaini missing from the final third.


Potential Starting XIs

Everton pick themselves at the back, with Jan Mucha and Johnny Heitinga presumably filling in for Tim Howard and Phil Jagielka—although Moyes has stated he hopes his injured pair could still feature (via EvertonFC.com).

It gets a little bit more complicated further forward, given the absence of Fellaini and Pienaar. Jelavic's scoring return against City will almost certainly result in his inclusion, meaning Victor Anichebe is likely to drop deeper.

Kevin Mirallas may then switch to his more favoured left flank ahead of Leighton Baines and spend periods of play interchanging with Anichebe. 

That leaves Moyes with a final dilemma over which of Bryan Oviedo, Steven Naismith and Ross Barkley to use on the right.

With Oviedo more suited to the left and Barkley still a reluctant pick, it seems likely this final slot will go to Naismith. Alternatively, Phil Neville could return in the middle with Leon Osman ushered out wide.

For Stoke, Tony Pulis is likely to revert to a 4-5-1 approach, with his familiar back four.

Huth's return will probably come at the expense of Ryan Shotton, while Charlie Adam or Dean Whitehead seem more likely to be included than Cameron Jerome.

Peter Crouch is expected to lead the line and will hope to exploit his significant height advantage over Heitinga.

Statistics via EPL Index