Everton-Stoke City Preview
Stoke City will be hoping to hand a debut to record signing Giannelli Imbula as they host Everton at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.
Ever since arriving on the Premier League scene, Stoke haven't been shy to splash the cash in the transfer market, but the Potters have really caught the eye with their signings under manager Mark Hughes of late. Ibrahim Afellay and Xherdan Shaqiri were the standout additions of a busy summer spree, but none have garnered quite as much interest as the reported £18.3 million addition of Imbula from Porto earlier this week.
The 23-year-old was one of the most sought-after defensive midfielders in European football when he joined Porto in the summer, but just six months after a move that didn't work out, he has switched to the Premier League - a division ideally suited to his style of play.
"I'm really pleased to have become a Stoke City player," Imbula said. "It's a very exciting moment for me in my career.
"The last months I spent in Porto, I found very difficult. I really hope everything will be okay here. It's important for me that the coach wants me and I know Mark Hughes wants me here. I will give my best for him and the team.
"I've watched many Stoke City games and I really appreciate the way they play football. Stoke is a top-ten club and I hope to achieve the best results with the club in the league over the next five months."
Imbula is joining a club who are as mid-table as it gets. The Potters (9-6-9) are 10th, but without a win in three games and have conceded six goals without reply in their last two league games.
Saturday's visitors Everton (7-11-6) are one point behind Stoke, but full of confidence after a much-needed 3-0 win over Newcastle in midweek. The Toffees had gone winless in five matches going into their clash with the Magpies, but Wednesday's victory halted any talk of a relegation fight.
Aaron Lennon opened the scoring for Roberto Martinez's side and Ross Barkley rounded off the win with two second-half penalties to mark his 100th Premier League appearance.
"It is a remarkable landmark for someone of his age," Martinez said. "Ross showed that he is not a young man anymore - he is still young in terms of age, but in footballing terms he is someone who is ready to lead a team. He has been very consistent all season.
"His decision-making has gone to a different level and I don't think he's just a player with potential anymore, he is an important player for us and represents Everton fantastically well. The second penalty showed that he is a confident young man with incredible technical ability."
One concern for Martinez will be his team's mounting injury list. John Stones has joined Kevin Mirallas, Muhamed Besic, Tyias Browning and Tony Hibbert on the sidelines, while Romelu Lukaku and Tim Howard both face late fitness tests. Lukaku took a knock on the back that forced him from Wednesday's victory, while Howard's knee injury forced Jose Robles into his first league start of the season.
Stoke have a few injury worries of their own, with Philipp Wollscheid joining Ryan Shawcross and Geoff Cameron on the list of doubts, while Charlie Adam and Marc Wilson are both out.