Afternoon all! Here we are again for another round of Premier League goodness. Right here, we're focusing on Everton's clash against Stoke City
at Goodison Park.
It's been a positive first season so far for Everton boss Roberto Martinez
, who has overseen his side lose just once so far in the campaign. You may wonder why they're just seventh in the table with the one blip on their record, but the Merseyside outfit have drawn six games, three of which have come in quick succession.
The Toffees will be hoping to break their run of draws with a win today, but they can be far from disheartened following their performance in last weekend's Merseyside derby. The 3-3 draw
with Liverpool was arguably one of the best games of the season so far, and Everton could have grabbed all three points had it not been for a late goal from Daniel Sturridge.
Anyway, enough about last weekend, let's turn to this afternoon's clash. Stoke have not had the best of starts given that they have only won three games so far this season. They failed to pick up maximum points for eight fixtures on the trot, but they eventually ended that poor run with a 2-0 victory
over struggling Sunderland last Saturday.
Before we can continue delving into what could potentially lie ahead, the team news has just filtered in from Goodison Park. Starting with the home side...
Everton XI: Howard; Coleman, Oviedo, Distin, Jagielka; Deulofeu, Barry, McCarthy, Osman; Pienaar; Lukaku
Stoke City XI: Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Muniesa, Pieters; Walters, Whelan, Nzonzi, Adam, Assaidi; Crouch
And on the bench...
Everton substitutes: Joel, Hibbert, Heitinga, Jelavic, Mirallas, Barkley, Stones
Stoke City substitutes: Sorensen, Wilkinson, Wilson, Ireland, Palacios, Shea, Jones
So, let's start with Everton's starting lineup. As we know, Martinez has had to find someone to fill the boots of full-back Leighton Baines after the England international was ruled out
for up to six weeks with a broken toe. The Spaniard has opted to bring Bryan Oviedo
into the side and he will assume the left-back role while Romelu Lukaku
, as expected, starts up front.
As well as the left-back role, Martinez has made two further changes, with both Ross Barkley and Kevin Mirallas dropping to the bench. Gerard Deulofeu
and Leon Osman have been brought into the starting lineup in place of the duo.
As for Stoke, manager Mark Hughes
has made two changes, one of which comes in defence due to the injured Robert Huth being out of action. Marc Muniesa starts as does loan player Oussama Assaidi in place of Marko Arnautovic, who is also out of the squad.
Hughes also revealed in his pre-match press conference this week that Stephen Ireland is in contention after overcoming a knee injury, but he is placed on the bench for the encounter.
All eyes are likely to be on Everton's on-loan striker Lukaku this afternoon following some interesting comments from Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho. Lukaku, who is still contracted to the Blues, recently claimed that he had not spoken to the boss of his parent club for two months.
Mourinho was alerted to those comments this week and responded by saying in a press conference: "Romelu likes to speak. He's a young boy who likes to speak, but the only thing he didn't say is why he went to Everton on loan.
"That's the only thing he never says. And my last contact with him was to tell him exactly that. Why do you never say why you are not here? So it's something he should [talk about] because he likes to speak. It's something he should say, the reason why he's not with Chelsea and is in Everton."
Intriguing indeed! Following on from Mourinho's claims, reports have emerged stating that Lukaku originally asked for a transfer request from Stamford Bridge in the summer, but instead the club rebuffed his desire and opted to send him out on loan.
Quotes have also been attributed to Lukaku today saying that he is open to making a permanent move to Goodison Park. Who knows what will happen there, but I'm sure all Everton fans will only be concerned with his form in front of goal today. The Belgium international has netted seven league goals for the Toffees so far this season. Their fans will be hoping for a few more today!
As mentioned earlier, Stoke managed to end their winless run last weekend, but they haven't secured a result against today's opponents since January 2011. Plus, if tradition is to be followed, don't expect many goals today. The most that has been scored in a game between the pair is two...
If Lukaku is the danger man for Everton this afternoon, you'd have to say that Steven N'Zonzi is capable of starring for the Potters this afternoon. You may be surprised to hear that N’Zonzi has created 15 chances, which is more than any other Stoke player this season. The 24-year-old has been impressive so far by being a reliable link between attack and defence. We'll see if he can help create many chances for the visiting side this afternoon.
We have around 10 minutes to go until kickoff. How do you see this one going? Everton have been a fortress at home given that they are yet to lose a game at Goodison Park this season. For me, it's worth asking the question of whether Stoke have enough in their ranks to cause an upset on Merseyside. Given that there have not been many goals between the pair in the past, I think the edge will go to Everton.
Following last weekend's thrilling performance at Goodison, Everton will have the task of lifting themselves again today. For Stoke, they need to work on their away from given that they have have secured just one victory on the road this season.
With Hughes trying to implement a more passing style at Stoke since his arrival in the summer, we could have an interesting battle on the field today.
Both sets of players have emerged from the tunnel and are on the field. We're just minutes away now!
GAME ON! Everton get the first half underway, kicking from right to left.
The home side get an early free kick just yards from the corner of the box after Pienaar is brought to the ground. Oviedo takes a touch for the first set piece of the game, finding Pienaar, who gets challenged again and receives another free kick in a central position.
SAVE! It's the first test for Begovic and he passes by falling down to his right to knock out the ball from a free kick taken from Deulofeu, who curled the ball through the wall. A positive start from the home side.
Barry tries to feed the ball into the path of Deulofeu on the right-hand channel, but he's blocked off and appeals for a free kick, but the referee waves it away.
Stoke try to keep some early possession by knocking it around the back four following a positive start from Everton, but they're struggling to find some creativity at the moment.
Some impressive play from Everton there. Osman goes for the long ball option, which is taken down by Deulofeu, who pulls the ball back in the box to Lukaku. He fails to latch onto it, but the play remains with Everton as Coleman plays it out wide to Oviedo, who comes in side and goes for a left-footed shot, but it misses the target.
Pienaar drives the ball into the path of Osman, but Begovic does the right thing by coming off his line to knock the ball clear before Osman gets through on goal.
At the moment it's all Everton, but Stoke are defending well, with Pieters winning a few challenges with Deulofeu on the right-hand side. However, when the Potters have been in possession, a few misplaced passes have let them down.
Adam grabs the ball from midfield and surges towards the box before crossing the ball into the area trying to find Crouch, but his effort goes beyond the striker.
Stoke have begun putting some pressure on the home side. They manage to keep the ball in the area before N'Zonzi drives a low pass towards the feet of Crouch, but Distin gets there first.
SAVE! Straight at the other end, Deulofeu gets involved once again down the right-hand side. His shot goes through a number of Stoke shirts, but it fails to get passed Begovic, who dives to his left to keep out the chance.
CHANCE! Some lovely link-up play between McCarthy and Lukaku, who receives the ball from the midfielder and lays it off for his teammate, who unleashes a shot at goal, but it just drifts wide.
Stoke have defended well, but they've been lacking in chances at the moment. The home side have failed to trouble goalkeeper Howard, while Everton have had five chances at goal so far, with two on target.
Osman is an acres of space as he drives towards the box and feeds in the ball to Lukaku, who knocks it back to his teammate but Pieters gets in the way to stop the move.
Some vital defending from Pieters again as the ball is crossed into the box looking for the head of Jagielka. The pair are drawn to the ball together, but Pieters manages to get just in front of his man to head the ball out just inches from goal.
Not the best of passes from Pienaar but it was a good idea, as he flicks the ball into Oviedo's pass, through the two defenders but his touch is just a bit too heavy and the ball goes out for a goal kick.
SAVE! Everton are upping the tempo, but they can't get through Begovic. The Stoke keeper reaches his right hand out to stop a thumping shot from Osman, and follows it up by using his body to block the rebound from Lukaku.
The home side continue to put the pressure on with waves of attack, but so far, Stoke are doing enough to keep out a goal. You wonder how long that will last though.
Stoke manage to get some possession in midfield through N'Zonzi, but after Adam drives the ball out wide to Pieters, he is forced to play it back as Everton begin closing them down.
Barry manages to pick out Lukaku, who brings down the ball to the right of goal. He cuts the ball back towards Osman, but it dribbles wider than he intended and Stoke manage to scoop it up.
Howard has been more of a spectator than a goalkeeper in the first half so far, but while Everton are asking all the questions, they're struggling to find a way through.
Deulofeu has been getting in all the correct positions down the right-hand side and Everton seem to be opting to go through him on a number of occasions, but the on-loan player's final pass or cross has been poor. Once again, he lifts the ball into the box from the right, but it flies over the bar as opposed to reaching Lukaku.
Lukaku has a half-chance at goal after leaping in the air to connect to a cross, but he heads down and it bounces in front of Begovic and bobbles wide of the post.
BOOKING! Cameron gets the first yellow card of the game with a lunging tackle. No complaints there.
CHANCE! Stoke get their first real attempt of the game when a long ball finds the head of Crouch, who nods it on to Walters. He brings it down, but fumbles his shot, which gives Howard time to drop down and gather the ball.
GOAL! Everton 1-0 Stoke City (Deulofeu)
Everton finally get the breakthrough and it's from Deulofeu. The youngster moves over to the left for the first time and plays the ball into Pienaar who, with one touch, passes it back to Deulofeu in the box, who continues his run and hits it to Barry, who knocks it back to Deulofeu and with just a yard from the goal line, slams the ball into the top corner with his left foot.
HALF TIME: Everton 1-0 Stoke City
The home side head into the break one goal to the good and you'd have to say that it's fully deserved. Everton have controlled the majority of the game, with Stoke having created just one chance during the first 45 minutes.
You have to give some credit to Stoke's defending as they were able to hold off Everton following wave upon wave of attack, but it felt like it was only a matter of time before the deadlock would be broken.
Deulofeu has looked a threat from the start, but a clinical final touch has been lacking, until he moved over to the left for the first time in the game. He passed his way through Stoke's defence to beat Begovic just before the stroke of half time, but it's been a positive team performance from the Toffees overall.
Leon Osman has especially been a dominant force in the middle of the park, while Steven N'Zonzi, who has been impressive for Stoke so far this season, has been relatively quiet so far.
Martinez will be the happier of the two managers and, I expect, will be telling his side to display much of the same in the second half. For Stoke, they need to adopt a more attacking prowess in the next 45 minutes, as well as tighten up the space between midfield and defence because Osman had plenty of freedom to roam in the first half.
Both sets of players have emerged onto the field for the second half. Will Stoke be able to respond?
SECOND HALF UNDERWAY! Stoke get the second 45 minutes going, kicking from right to let.
Everton get the first corner of the second half as Oviedo drives down the left to cross into the box, but it's headed clear. Lukaku lurks in the box as the corner kick comes into the near post, but Stoke deal with it.
GOAL! Everton 2-0 Stoke City (Coleman)
Deulofeu drives down the left and crosses the ball into the box. Barry leaves it for Coleman, who surges into the box and scuffs it into the far-side netting to give Everton a two-goal advantage.
The early goal for the home side gives Stoke a mountain to climb now. I mentioned earlier that there has not been more than two goals in a game between these two in recent years. Form how Everton look at the moment, there could be more to come!
Stoke get a set-piece chance from just beyond the centre circle. Adam launches the ball up towards his teammates waiting in the box, but it gets knocked out for their first corner of the game. It comes to nothing.
SAVE! Begovic comes to Stoke's aid again when Everton go on the break from the visitors' failed corner. Deulofeu storms into the box and gets fouled by Whelan, but he stays on his feet and goes for goal, but Begovic blocks the shot.
GOAL! Everton 3-0 Stoke City (Oviedo)
What a strike! Oviedo gets his name on the scoresheet with a fantastic long-range goal. Following an impressive passage of play from Everton, the home side win a corner. They take is short with Oviedo waiting outside the area. He unleashes the shot and Begovic has no chance of keeping it out of the net.
SUBSTITUTION Stoke make a double change as Adam and Walters make way for Kenwyne Jones and Brek Shea.
SAVE! It's Howard's turn to do some work as Jones hits plays the ball into the feet of Crouch, who comes into the danger area to take a shot on, but Howard gets his body in the way to prevent Stoke from getting on the scoresheet.
BOOKING! Pieters comes across Osman and brings down the midfielder, who was on the charge, and receives a yellow card for doing so.
Stoke have had a few minutes of possession, but they're struggling to make it count in the final third. However, Jones has given Everton something to think about since coming on.
Lukaku takes on Shawcross, but can't get through, so he plays the ball back to Barry, who lofts it over the top into the box, but Begovic comes off his line to gather with ease.
Oh dear. Shea could have been celebrating a goal for Stoke, but he fails to get a touch on the ball that was driven across goal from Pieters. There was a lot of pace on the ball, but Shea should have done better.
CHANCE! Pienaar could have made it four for the home side after Lukaku moved the play to the right of the box. He knocks it back to Pienaar, but the ball comes a bit too far behind for him to get a shot on and he scuffs it.
Everton are awarded a free kick just yards from the box after Pienaar gets brought down. Lukaku lines up to take it...
The Belgium international goes for a thumping shot, but the wall stands firm and the chance goes missing for Everton.
SUBSTITUTION Everton make their first change of the game as McCarthy comes off for youngster John Stones.
Everton appeal for a hand ball in the penalty area after Oviedo's cross hits Cameron. Replays show that the ball does stroke the arm of the Stoke player, but the referee gives a corner kick, which comes to nothing.
GOAL! Everton 4-0 Stoke City (Lukaku)
Lukaku nets his eighth goal for Everton since joining on loan in the summer. Osman hits a low pass to the feet of Oviedo, who gets away from his defender and sends a low cross into Lukaku's path, who knocks it behind Begovic to give Everton a four-goal lead.
SUBSTITUTION That's Lukaku's final kick of the game as Martinez brings off the striker and replaces him with Nikica Jelavic.
We've got under 10 minutes plus stoppage time remaining, and Everton look like they could add to their goal tally before the game is out. It's damage control for Stoke at this point.
SUBSTITUTION Martinez makes his final change by bringing on Kevin Mirallas for Steven Pienaar.
Jelavic grabs possession from Stoke and storms towards the corner of the box, but Shawcross does enough to block the chance, allowing Stoke to begin a rare spell with the ball.
SAVE! If it wasn't for Begovic, I'm sure Everton would have a much larger scoreline, but he comes to the rescue once again when Jelavic plays in Mirallas, who unleashes a shot from in the box with his right foot, but the keeper dives to the ground to make the save.
At the other end, Crouch manages to get a shot on target, but it was a lacklustre effort from the striker, as the ball bobbles towards Howard.
CHANCE! A lovely through ball from Mirallas finds the path of Jelavic, who gets away from the defender and is just yards away from goal, but he hammers the ball right into Begovic.
Everton just keep on coming! This time, it's Mirallas who receives the ball on the right side of the box. He tries to curl the shot towards goal, but Begovic is able to gather with ease.
FULL TIME: Everton 4-0 Stoke City
So, there we have it. Everton have put in an impress performance to secure a much-deserved 4-0 win over Stoke City, who failed to make an impact through the match. As a result of this afternoon's outcome, the Toffees have moved up three places to fourth in the Premier League table, while Stoke drop two to 16th.
Make sure you stick around on Sports Mole for the latest reaction and reports from all of today's football action. Until next time, goodbye!