Everton-Stoke City Preview
LONDON (SE) - In-form Stoke City welcome Everton to the Britannia Stadium on Saturday afternoon in a game that brings together two clubs with very similar styles.
Stoke (5-8-3) are unbeaten in six in the league and just three points off the Champions League places, and manager Tony Pulis is hoping in time the club can bridge the gap and join Everton as top four challengers.
"We're nowhere near where we want to be," said Pulis. "That takes time. I think we've become a better team and we mix it up a lot more. But evolving takes time. The way they (Everton) have built, it always looks from the outside to be a top, top club. They have defenders who can defend well and players who can open you up.
"We want to build it properly over a period of time. We haven't had the time they've had to build foundations. They will be in the top six without a doubt and have a good chance of being in the top four. Physically and technically, they are as good as almost any team in the league. They have competed well."
Everton (6-8-2) ended a run of four games without a win last weekend when they scored twice in added time to beat Spurs 2-1. The Toffees have lost just one in 10 in the league, playing some great football at times, and midfielder Marouane Fellaini was this week credited with helping that run by being named Premier League Player of the Month for November.
"I am very happy with the award but the most important thing is the team," said the Belgium international. "Everybody wants to play in the Champions League, so everyone is working hard and at the end of the season we want to be in the top four.
"At the moment, I am playing well. I try to give my maximum in every game. The manager likes it when I play in attack, so at the moment, it's good for me and the club. I've been scoring the goals and I work hard on the pitch."
Stoke have doubts over Michael Owen (hamstring) and Rory Delap (hernia), while Marc Wilson is out with a broken leg. Everton are without Phil Neville (knee) and Victor Anichebe (hamstring).
The Potter have conceded just twice at home all season - four less than any other team in the division - and have taken points in all seven of their matches at the Brittania (4-3-0). However, only Queen's Park Rangers have managed to score fewer goals at home than Stoke's seven.
Both Stoke and Everton have drawn eight games this season - a league high.
This fixture last season ended 1-1, with Cameron Jerome equalising for Stoke after Peter Crouch's own goal. The Potters beat Everton 1-0 at Goodison Park, with Robert Huth scoring the winner and the Toffees failing to register a single shot on target. David Moyes' side has won just one of the last six against Stoke and have taken three points away from the Britannia since a 3-2 win in 2008.