Chris Beesley talks to Martin Spinks who covers the Potters for the Stoke Sentinel about what the Blues can expect tonight at the Britannia Stadium.
Beware the former Reds
Old rival Peter Crouch is the man in form and the one for Everton FC to watch.
Former Liverpool FC striker Crouch has netted five times against the Blues in the past (three for Portsmouth, one for Liverpool and one for Southampton), has hit the back of the net in his last four outings.
Spinks said: “Crouch has been particularly effective of late, especially coming off the bench. He drew level with Alan Shearer at the weekend for the all-time Premier League record of 46 headed goals so he’s going for that one outright and he’s also on 95 Premier League goals in total. He’s got the century to aim for before the end of the season too.
Soccer – Barclays Premier League – Everton v Stoke City – Goodison Park December 2011 Everton’s Leighton Baines and Stoke City’s Peter Crouch (centre) battle for the ball
“He’s 34 now but has just signed a two-year contract extension so touch wood he can remain effective throughout that period.
“He doesn’t suffer from some of the issues that veteran players face. Weight is clearly not a problem while he admits that pace has never been part of his game so he hasn’t got any to lose.
“His manager Mark Hughes has spoken to him about how he carried on playing until he was 38 so hopefully Crouchy might be similar in that respect.”
‘Two metre Peter’ isn’t the only Anfield old boy to be making waves at the Britannia and after an underwhelming season with the Reds, Victor Moses has rediscovered his form.
Spinks said: “Moses certainly has his moments. He was always more likely to be given a chance with Stoke than he was at Liverpool where he hardly got a look in and he’s done well.
“He’s playing on the left wing and with a strong finish to the campaign he could be in line to be named the club’s Player of the Season, which is up for grabs since Bojan got injured.”
Improving Stoke can leave the Blues in their wake
If Stoke beat Everton tonight they’ll be 14 points above them in the Premier League table and it comes as no surprise to hear that most Potters fans are pleased with the way Hughes has got their side playing.
Spinks said: “League-wise the supporters are generally very satisfied with the progress made. They finished on 50 points last season so they’re on course to beat that this term.
Picture by Gareth Jones Everton vs Stoke City at Goodison Park. Roberto Martinez and fellow boss Mark Hughes..
“The big disappointment was the 4-1 exit at Blackburn in the FA Cup as there was a feeling that Wembley wasn’t too far away, although it turns out they would have been drawn against Liverpool at Anfield.
“The manner of that defeat was what hurt the fans but to be fair the team have suffered terribly with injuries.
“Anyone who doesn’t think that Hughes is doing a good job probably needs their head examining.”
Goodison old boy has ditched the long ball tactics
Hughes replaced fellow Welshman Tony Pulis in 2013 which brought an end to his predecessor’s seven-year second spell in charge of Stoke in which he had established them as a solid Premier League club.
Although the Potters had made great strides under Pulis, Spinks reveals there was a general consensus that it was time for a change.
He said: “Hughes has done incredibly well adapting the team’s style of play and attracting talents like Bojan to the club.
“Opinion was divided over Tony Pulis towards the end but something had to change.
“The football had become very attritional under Pulis but that’s not to say that people weren’t ultimately grateful for all that he had done.
“Hughes’ appointment wasn’t universally acclaimed but the owners asked the fans not to base him on his record at QPR and they’ve been vindicated in that respect.”
The Potters aren’t champing at the bit to follow the Blues into the Europa League
The next logical step for Stoke would be to aim for European football but Spinks thinks they can wait at least another year in that respect.
He said: “I’m not in a rush to see them back in the Europa League as it certainly took its toll on them last time around.
“I remember long away trips to the likes of Israel, Ukraine and Turkey usually followed by Premier League aways at Swansea and Sunderland.
“It was a bit of a burden really with the team still being relative fledglings in the Premier League but I wouldn’t have thought it was a problem for a club like Everton though – if that’s the reason for their disappointments in the Premier League this season.”
There’s still a battle to be won
Stoke might not quite be the bruisers they once were but with the Blues in desperate need of a victory, there’s no way tonight’s game can be considered a walk in the park.
Spinks said: “Given the way Stoke have been playing they’ll be confident and there’ll be a certain amount of expectation from the crowd.
“I think the feeling is that there’s a battle to be won first before either side can think about the three points but if Stoke can get their noses in front they’ll fancy their chances.”