Stoke City, unbeaten at the Britannia Stadium in the league this season, tackle high-flying Everton in the Premier League on Saturday.
The clash is looming as a battle between European aspirants, with David Moyes’ men in fourth place on the table on goal difference, ahead of Tottenham and West Bromwich Albion, while Stoke are just three points behind in ninth.
But Stoke, unbeaten in their past six matches after a goalless draw with Aston Villa last Saturday, will be determined to protect their home record, which has seen them yet to lose at the Britannia in seven league games so far this season.
With that run to defend, Stoke manager Tony Pulis has urged the team’s fans to get behind the players for the arrival of Everton.
“It’s going to be a very difficult game against a team that will finish in the top six, without doubt,” Pulis predicted.
“With (Leighton) Baines, (Steven) Pienaar and the big lad up front, (Marouane) Fellaini, they have a top team and we will need our fans behind us.”
Stoke will have to try to preserve ‘fortress Britannia’ without right-back Ryan Shotton, who was sent off in the third minute of injury time against Villa after collecting a second booking.
But Pulis could welcome back fellow defender Andy Wilkinson, who has not played since suffering a back injury in the 1-1 draw with West Ham last month.
Volatile midfielder Charlie Adam will come back into contention for selection after missing the Villa clash through suspension.
Everton, meanwhile, will look to continue their recent good form which has seen them further their claims for a Champions League spot. The last and so far only time they qualified for the tournament in its modern format was in 2005, although they failed to reach the group stages.
The Merseyside outfit have now lost just two of their last 25 Premier League games, both away from Goodison Park – at Reading and West Brom.
But Everton may be without Belgian striker Kevin Mirallas, whose return after four weeks on the sidelines was cut short in the dramatic 2-1 win over Tottenham at half-time on Sunday with a recurrence of his hamstring problem.
There is better news concerning full-back Seamus Coleman, whose recovery from an unspecified problem is almost complete.
The victory over Spurs was only their second in 10 matches but it restored Everton’s place in the top four.
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