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EPL: Everton v Stoke Preview
Our football writer previews the Everton and Stoke meeting on Saturday at Goodison Park.
This promises to be an interesting clash for two sides at different developmental stages. Everton are just finding their feet under the stewardship of the calculating Ronald Koeman, attempting to integrate some more defensive rigidity into their free-flowing structure. Stoke are a side in a state of limbo. They seem caught somewhere between their traditionally robust approach and a more intricate, continental style. While they have maintained a fairly consistent status in the Premier League, they remain an enigmatic unit that is incredibly hard to predict.
Everton v Stoke | Saturday 27 August | Goodison Park | 16:00
To Win (90 Mins)Everton 7/10 | Draw 26/10 | Stoke 4/1
Ronald Koeman will be delighted with the response from his side, after going behind against West Brom last week. In particular, he will be buoyed by the contributions of new signings Ashley Williams and Yannick Bolasie. The manner in which McCauley gave West Brom the lead prompted Koeman to turn to the physical presence of Williams, shoring up the defence. I think he may opt to try the Williams-Funes-Mori combination this weekend. Both are also excellent in the opposing box and will look to entice Shawcross and company into absent-minded bouts of shirt tugging.
Bolasie was terrific when he came on, injecting the side with an added dimension of athleticism that they have been sorely lacking. His ability to cross from wide areas should have been perfect for Lukaku, but I don’t think that Koeman will feature the want-away striker. Kone scored twice in no time in the League Cup and actually looked remarkably sharp. I expect that he may opt to start Kone instead of pursuing the false nine option of Deulofeu.
Stoke will look to turn this into a physical game and prey upon a perceived lack of fitness in the Everton ranks. I expect them to start with Diouf up front with the explosive Shaqiri and combustible Arnautovic on either side. This provides them with an excellent balance of physicality, speed and creativity. Bojan will have likely been lost in a game that seems as physically demanding as this one. Joe Allen appears to have already endeared himself to the Stoke faithful and will no doubt become a fixture in this side.
The midfield, consisting of the likes of Whelan and Imbula, lacks an element of dynamism and occasionally battles to give the front line the service it requires. Furthermore, their backline can look clumsy and somewhat analog when confronted with the very best attacking sides. Bolasie could cause havoc down Pieter’s side if he isn’t careful. But I expect Shaqiri and Arnautovic will be mindful of their defensive duties and will be instructed to help give defensive cohesion, thus leaving Diouf somewhat isolated.
Verdict: Under 2.5 Goals 8/10
While I think Everton may have the quality to edge it; perhaps Stoke will do enough for a point. But I don’t foresee a high scoring extravaganza, especially in the wake of Stoke’s defeat to City last week. Hughes will set his team up in obdurate fashion, resulting in a tactical game of few chances.
Written by Damien Kayat @Hollywoodbets