Everton-Stoke City Preview

AP - Sports

Mark Hughes will be hoping for some belated festive cheer as Stoke play Everton at the Britannia Stadium on New Year's Day after watching his side lose their last two matches.

Stoke (5-6-8) were defeated 5-1 at Newcastle United on Boxing Day and then 3-0 at Tottenham last Sunday. Potters boss Hughes' misery has been compounded by news that first-choice goalkeeper Asmir Begovic could be out for up to six weeks after breaking a finger in training on Christmas Day.

The Potters have slipped down to 12th place following those back-to-back losses and are only five points clear of the relegation zone.

Hughes gave an honest assessment of his side's performance against Tottenham.

"Sometimes you have to hold your hands up and accept that they were the better team, and that they fully deserved to win the game," Hughes told his club's website. "Their power, pace and quality caused us a lot of problems, and on the occasion that we did manage to get hold of the ball we weren't able to assert ourselves on them in the way that we would have liked.

"We allowed them to dictate the game today, and truth be told it was fairly comfortable for them. We need to dust ourselves down, keep our heads up and look forward to the Everton game because the Christmas period hasn't been the best for us."

Everton (10-7-2) bounced back from a shock 1-0 home defeat by bottom club Sunderland on Boxing Day with a hard-fought 2-1 win against Southampton at Goodison Park last Sunday.

Seamus Coleman gave the Toffees an early lead when he cut in from the right and unleashed an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net before on-loan striker Romelu Lukaku scored his first goal in six matches to secure all three points for the Merseysiders.

Everton end the year in fourth place, five points behind leaders Arsenal.

Republic of Ireland defender Coleman, who has scored five goals this season, says he is enjoying Everton's more expansive style of play under manager Roberto Martinez.

"I'm obviously delighted to be getting on the scoresheet. I reverted back to my natural position, which is right-back, and I like to get forward", Coleman told the Everton club website. "The football we are playing, we have a lot of the ball and that gets me more chances. I'll take as many goals as I can get.

"We just want to keep going the way we are. There was a little blip (against Sunderland) but we have been playing well and getting good results. We are taking it one game at a time and looking forward to what's ahead. We want to finish as high as we can and we are doing quite well at the minute."

Stoke duo Glenn Whelan and Marc Wilson are available after suspension, while Robert Huth (knee) is sidelined together with Begovic.

Everton captain Phil Jagielka has been ruled out for up to four weeks after suffering a hamstring injury against Sunderland.

Stoke will be looking to avenge a 4-0 defeat against Everton in this season's reverse fixture on Merseyside in November. Gerard Deulofeu, Bryan Oviedo, Coleman and Lukaku scored for the Toffees.

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