Two mid-table rivals who might have expected better from this season meet at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday, with both recovering from agonising recent Capital One Cup semi-final defeats.
Stoke are on a three-match winless run in the Premier League, which has halted the momentum which they were starting to build up over the festive period and into the New Year; a run which included a thrilling 4-3 win over Everton in the reverse fixture at Goodison Park.
Mark Hughes’ side have also gone goalless in their last three matches, and if they draw a blank against the Toffees it will mark the first time they have gone four consecutive top flight games without scoring since 1985.
If Peter Crouch features on Saturday it will bring up 400 Premier League appearances for the rangy England striker – he will be the 25th Englishman to reach that landmark.
Everton picked up their first win in six Premier League matches with the 3-0 win over Newcastle in midweek, with Ross Barkley again in inspired form; he has scored more goals (eight) than in any of his previous seasons and is also the leading Englishman for assists, with seven.
The midweek win confirmed that Everton have no troubles in front of goal; the three scored on Wednesday night took their tally to 43, a goal record only beaten by the top three in the Premier League.
The Toffees are looking to reverse a run that has seen them lose their last three matches against Stoke, whilst they are searching for a first win at the Britannia since 2008, when Tim Cahill scored the winner in a 3-2 victory.
Hughes could hand a debut to club-record signing Giannelli Imbula, having signed the midfielder for £18.3 million from Porto on deadline day. They have problems at centre-back, however, with only Marc Muniesa definitely available; Phillip Wollscheid is doubtful and Ryan Shawcross, Geoff Cameron and Marc Wilson are all injured.
Romelu Lukaku picked up a back injury in midweek and will be assessed ahead of this weekend, and Roberto Martinez will definitely be without John Stones, Tim Howard and Mo Besic. An appearance for their own big-money deadline day signing, £13.5 million Oumar Niasse, is dependent on whether he receives his visa in time.
League Positions: Stoke – 10th (33 pts); Everton – 11th (32 pts)
Previous Meeting: Everton 3-4 Stoke – December 28, 2015
League Form: Stoke – WLWDLL; Everton – LDDDLW
Key Players: Stoke – Xherdan Shaqiri; Everton – Ross Barkley
Shoot Says: Stoke 2-2 Everton