Everton take on struggling Stoke City this weekend in another important match in the Premier League as the Blues seek to maintain their form after last Saturday’s win over Brighton.
The Potters are right in the relegation mix, they are desperate for points and they will be looking at this fixture with the thought that they can get something from the game given Everton’s poor away form this season.
The Toffees have lost their last five away matches in the Premier League so reversing this dreadful run is critical.
The Blues need to be ready for a determined effort from Stoke. Everton can’t afford the sort of performance they turned in at Burnley.
After a solid first half the team folded in the second half and threw away a lead and ultimately the points.
What then are the keys for the Blues to defeat Stoke?
Keep hold of the ball and keep it on the deck
Stoke are very strong in the air. So the Blues need to keep hold of the ball as much as possible and keep it on ground so as to negate one of Stokes main strengths.
Wayne Rooney will be important here as his role is going to be more pivotal now that Gylfi Sigurdsson is out injured.
Rooney sometimes is tempted to hit too many long searching passes looking for the decisive through ball.
But in this match it will be more important for Everton to hold onto the ball and frustrate Stoke waiting for the chance to break forward.
This is something Everton have not done well this season so concentration and discipline will be important.
The Blues also have to be aware that Stoke are good at nicking possession so attempting too many long hopeful passes or trying to force a pass will give their opponents easy chances to win it back.
Defensively the Toffees also need to try to restrict the number of set-piece chances Stoke have by not giving away needless free kicks and conceding corners through sloppy defending.
Exploit the wide areas effectively
Everton exploited their pace and width effectively last weekend against Brighton. Stoke are a similar team to Brighton and again tend to play in a defensive way looking to frustrate and absorb opponents attacks.
Stoke don’t tend to cope well with teams that have quality attacking players out wide with the pace and ability to exploit their opportunities.
This was evidenced in their last match against Manchester City. City enjoyed a lot of success using the flanks to stretch and open up Stoke.
With the return to fitness of Yannick Bolasie as well as full backs Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman, Everton should certainly have the resources to take advantage of that weakness.
The only potential issue that weakens Everton here is the fitness of Theo Walcott. He is a doubt for Saturday’s game.
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Starve Shaqiri of possession
Xherdan Shaquiri is undoubtedly Stoke’s best and most influential player. He leads the team in goals and assists.
So obviously Everton need to try to restrict the amount of good quality ball he gets, particularly in the last third where he is very dangerous.
Shaqiri is especially effective dropping off to find space and receive the ball outside the penalty area.
And can score from almost any distance around the box and it’s important to close him down quickly when he gets any chance to turn on the ball in those areas.
So these are the key things for the Blues to contend with as they look to win back-to-back games for the first time since December.