December 24, 2014

If momentum is only as good as your last match played, then both Everton and Stoke City should be confident of gaining three points Saturday when the Toffees host the Potters at Goodison Park.

TheSE two sides are trying to build on second-round League Cup victories Tuesday over lower-league squads, with each recording 4-0 scorelines. For Everton (1-1-0), it was a clinical victory over League Two side Yeovil Town as Ross Barkley celebrated his first match as captain with a second-half goal to make it 2-0 before Arouna Kone sealed the victory with a late brace.

That furthered the momentum of the Toffees' 2-1 win at The Hawthorns over West Bromwich Albion in which Barkley assisted on the match-tying goal by Kevin Mirallas. One of the few England players to escape harsh scrutiny from this summer's European Championship, Barkley was appreciative new manager Ronald Koeman gave him the armband for the match.

"Just before the game, the manager said that I would have the armband and just told me what it means to captain Everton Football Club," the 22-year-old told Everton's official website after advancing to a third-round match at Goodison Park against recently relegated Norwich City.

"I am over the moon to captain the side … I'm glad that we won as well.

Koeman should have everyone at his disposal save Seamus Coleman despite utilising a strong lineup to take care of The Glovers. Striker Romelu Lukaku made his first start of the season as did newcomers Yannick Bolasie and Ashley Williams from Crystal Palace and Swansea City, respectively.

The new manager ruled out a bid for out-of-favour Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart before next Thursday's transfer deadline at his news conference and is also unconcerned Lukaku has yet to find the scoring touch that provided 25 goals in all competitions last season.

"I'm not worried about him scoring goals, they will score, whether it's Saturday or in two weeks," Koeman said at his Thursday news conference regarding Lukaku. "He's still not 100 percent of his physical level and that's very important right now. It's not important to score against a League Two team but it is important to score the first one."

The Potters, meanwhile, needed their rout of League Two squad Stevenage to wipe away the bitter taste of a 4-1 thrashing administered by Manchester City over the weekend. Peter Crouch proved to be the unexpected hero as the former England international bagged a hat trick in his first action of the season as Stoke drew Hull City at home for a third-round match next month.

The 35-year-old had just two goals in 18 appearances in all competitions last season, so he's hoping Tuesday's performance will be enough to make boss Mark Hughes at least consider him for this week's 18-man roster.

"When the chances come along you have to be ready to grab them and show that you warrant a spot in the starting eleven, and hopefully I have been able to do that," Crouch told Stoke City's official website. "I've not been playing and I've been frustrated but obviously I've still been professional about it and still been training to keep fit."

For his part, Hughes took the positives of a needed shutout after seeing his team torn apart by an imperious Man City side he tipped to be in contention for the title.

"We scored four very good goals, controlled the game and earned a clean sheet," the manager said. "We were absolutely spot on tonight, and that is how it has to be now, week in week out."

Stoke have just one victory in their last nine league matches (1-3-5) dating back to last season. Marko Arnautovic, who led the team with 12 goals last season, has failed to put any of his six shots on target over the first three matches.

The road team won both matches last season as Stoke City rallied to a 4-3 victory in the corresponding fixture at Goodison Park on a penalty by Arnautovic in the 91st minute. Everton returned the favour with a 3-0 thrashing at Brittania as Lukaku, Coleman and Aaron Lennon all scored in the first half to avoid a fourth straight league defeat to the Potters.

Lukaku had three of Everton's six goals in the two matches last season and has four in eight lifetime matches against Stoke City.

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