Stoke City v Everton preview: Giannelli Imbula to make his Potters debut
By Richard Morgan
Last Updated: 06/02/16 3:41pm
Midfielder Giannelli Imbula is in line to make his Stoke City debut against Everton on Saturday.
The Frenchman joined the Potters from Porto for a club-record fee of £18.3m on Deadline Day and after a 3-0 defeat to Manchester United on Tuesday, boss Mark Hughes is likely to waste no time in giving his new recruit a first taste of the Premier League.
Everton, meanwhile, hope to have striker Romelu Lukaku fit for the trip to the Potteries.
The Belgium international was forced off in the midweek win over Newcastle United with a back problem which left him struggling to walk, but not before trying to soldier on for the good of the team.
However, boss Roberto Martinez expects the 22-year-old to lead the line this weekend.
"He looked a lot freer yesterday. He is back to himself," said the Spaniard in his pre-match press conference.
Meanwhile, back-up goalkeeper Joel Robles will make his fourth successive start - something he has not achieved since playing eight in a row around the turn of the year last season - as Tim Howard is still injured.
The shot-stopper has conceded just three goals in his last four appearances and is pushing to be named first choice outright.
Imbula should make his Stoke bow against the Toffees, but defenders Ryan Shawcross, Geoff Cameron and Marc Wilson are all out injured.
And with centre-back Philipp Wollscheid also a major doubt for the game, Marc Muniesa could be Hughes' only fit central defender.
Everton frontman Lukaku is expected to recover from the back problem he sustained on Wednesday, while forward Kevin Mirallas is fit again after a tendon injury.
However, Howard (knee), defender John Stones and midfielder Muhamed Besic (both hamstring) will not feature and deadline-day signing Oumar Niasse is awaiting final completion of his paperwork in order to join the matchday squad.
Stoke have won five and lost just two of their last nine Premier League games at home (W5 D2 L2).
Everton have lost just one of their last 12 Premier League away games, but seven of these have ended in a draw (W4 D7 L1).
Gerard Deulofeu has scored in both of his Premier League appearances against Stoke.
The last goal of the game in three of the last four Premier League matches between Stoke and Everton has been a penalty and on all three occasions changed the result.
Peter Crouch could make his 400th Premier League appearance in this match and will become the 25th different Englishman to reach this landmark.
Stoke have won a league-low one point in games that they have conceded the first goal in this season (10 games, W0 D1 L9).
The Potters have failed to score in any of their last three Premier League games; they haven't gone four top-flight games in a row without scoring since March 1985 (eight games).
Ross Barkley has now scored eight league goals this season, more than he has managed in any Premier League campaign in his career.
Barkley is also the leading English player for assists in the Premier League this season (7), though his last one came against Stoke in December.
Jonathan Walters could make his 200th Premier League appearance in this match; 195 of the previous 199 have come for Stoke.
What Everton are going to turn up? They're like a bag of Revels, you just don't know what's coming! I backed them to beat Swansea a few weeks back and they lost, and then they beat Newcastle 3-0. They are unpredictable at best. Stoke, meanwhile, have had the week from hell, exiting both cups - one on penalties - and then getting rinsed by Manchester United. Everton score goals and I don't like going against Stoke at home so I'm predicting a Desmond.
The bookies consider this one very much a mid-table battle, as the two sides are 10th and 11th in Sky Bet's top-half finish market, Stoke being the longer odds at 6/5.