Premier League 17/18 Week 31: Stoke City vs Everton- Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Stoke look to come unstuck from the relegation zone when an Everton side within touching distance of safety pay them a visit
15:00 GMT, Saturday 17th March, bet365 Stadium (Stoke, England)
Paul Lambert may have halted the slide at Stoke but they must build momentum over the coming weeks. Despite being 19th in the table, the Potters are only 1 point behind 17th-placed Southampton, however, the gap to mid-table is stretching. Without a win in 6 matches now, three points will be priceless on Saturday if they’re to have any realistic dreams of pulling off this great escape.
Three points last weekend for the Toffees made a considerable difference to the mood engulfing the blue half of Merseyside, however, Sam Allardyce is far from out of the woods just yet. Having claimed he would bring style and flair back to the Toffees once safety was achieved this season, phase two of his season’s task could prove to be a heavy challenge for him. With only one away win all season, Everton are not assured of completing a double-win over Stoke and will have to do so without influential Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurðsson this weekend.
Last Time Out
Stoke City 0-2 Manchester City (Premier League)
The Potters put in a commendable display but came up two goals short as the champions-elect picked up all three points. Stoke’s task was made harder when David Silva put the visitors ahead after only 10 minutes, however, Lambert’s side stuck gamely to their duties, regardless.
Having finished the match with 23% and none of their three shots taken being on target, Stoke’s players spent much of the 90 minutes chasing shadows. Jack Butland helped to keep the score to a respectable level as did the defenders in front of him who were predictably the busiest and most impressive of Stoke’s players.
While defeat means it’s now six league matches without a win, there was comfort for Stoke fans in the tenacity their players showed in adversity during this game and also the fact they won’t need to play Pep Guardiola’s City again this season.
Everton 2-0 Brighton & Hove Albion (Premier League)
Persistence paid off for the Toffees as the Seagulls eventually caved in to give the home side a valuable win which lifted them to near-safety. Phil Jagielka returned to the defence and was a calming influence on those around him as was Leighton Baines, who made his first start for the club since injury ruled him out last November.
Despite missing a late penalty with his team already comfortably ahead, Wayne Rooney provided a masterclass in how to run a midfield. Theo Walcott also returned to form and was only denied a goal by the shin of Gaetan Bong who put the ball in the net for the Everton winger.
Cenk Tosun grabbed his second in as many games to wrap up the win with a well-taken goal to cap off an impressive performance by the striker. It was deserved by the Turkish striker and could just be the turning point in both his and Everton’s poor form this season.
Stoke City Lineup
Mame Biram Diouf (shoulder) will again remain sidelined for this match, joining Stephen Ireland (calf) and Kevin Wimmer (fitness) on the treatment table. Having kept predominantly the same team in recent games, Lambert’s side should line up as they did against Manchester City last Monday with Jesé Rodríguez once more spearheading the attack.
Ashley Williams remains suspended for this match while Gylfi Sigurðsson (knee) joins Eliaquim Mangala (knee) James McCarthy (leg) and Morgan Schneiderlin (illness) out of action this weekend.
Key Battle: Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City) vs Wayne Rooney (Everton)
Lambert stated earlier this week that Stoke cannot rely on Shaqiri to create and score the goals needed to keep the Potters afloat. Having been directly involved in 13 league goals so far this season (7 goals, 6 assists) he is by far the most creatively productive player in the squad. Without a goal in either of their last two fixtures, Stoke will need to score this weekend and Shaqiri remains their most obvious source in supplying it.
The injury to Sigurðsson is likely to see Rooney moved higher up the pitch this weekend, playing in his favoured number 10 position. Having been adopted as a holding midfielder recently, the Toffees have been able to have more composure in deeper areas of the pitch but lose out on Rooney’s natural attacking instincts. While he missed a penalty against Brighton last Saturday to condemn him to the Premier League’s worst Penalty record (11 misses with a 68% conversion rate) his conversion rate remains impressively high (41%) from open-play.
The story of Jesé Rodriguez’s season on loan at Stoke neatly encapsulates his career to date. A cycle of missed opportunities and last chances for a player who’s skill promises so much but as yet has failed to deliver.
The injury of Diouf has again opened the door for Jesé to show a new manager what he’s capable of on the pitch. While his failure to establish himself this season can largely be attributed to the personal ordeal he’s had to face with his young family, he put his son’s illness behind him on Monday night to put in a hungry display against the Citizens.
His efforts off-the-ball coupled with a lack of match fitness left him struggling during the second half and stamina is something he will need to work on with immediate effect. If he can replicate this desire to win against Everton and keep his composure if a chance comes his way, perhaps he can finally break his vicious circle and deliver for Stoke in their time of need.
A confidence game
As an avid advocate of using a club psychologist, Sam Allardyce is a firm believer in his squad possessing the correct mental makeup. Their collective performance against an upbeat Brighton side last weekend belied their current form as they dominated the Seagulls for most the match.
Much of this could arguably have been due to the return of Jagielka, Coleman and Baines in defence which provides a solid platform for the Toffees to build from. Cenk Tosun too looks like a player reborn while Walcott picked up the early promise he showed on Merseyside after moving from Arsenal.
Whatever the reason for everything coming together last weekend, Big Sam has a solid nucleus of players to work with. The teamwork displayed by the players was encouraging but the confidence gained from such a display could prove even more so. As is becoming clear with Tosun’s game, confidence was a major difference last weekend and the nature of the win can only add further to this.
Prediction: Stoke City 2-1 Everton
Everton’s awful away record could see an improvement now there’s less pressure on the players’ shoulders to perform, however, Stoke need to get a big result this weekend. With the fear of relegation spurring them on, the Potters could well be in line to pick up their first win under Paul Lambert at the Toffees expense in this encounter.