Stevenage vs Everton

, 24 January, 0comments  |  Jump to most recent
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Everton's next step on the road that they hope will lead to Wembley takes them to Hertfordshire tomorrow to take on Stevenage for the second time in cup competition this season. In a curious twist of fate, the two clubs were drawn together for their first ever meeting in the League Cup second round back in August, and now they will face off again, this time in the FA Cup Fourth Round.

The Blues squeezed their way past the Boro in that first game at Goodison Park, requiring extra time before Marouane Fellaini's last goal for the club put them into the next round where, of course, they somehow lost to Fulham having dominated the first 45 minutes.

Five months further down the line — Monday night's poor performance notwithstanding — this Everton is a different proposition to the one that was still feeling its way into the Martinez era and hadn't yet benefited from the deadline-day acquisitions of Romelu Lukaku, Gareth Barry and James McCarthy. In the interim, they've lost just twice and it's that kind of invincibility that will stand the Blues in very good stead in this season's FA Cup.

The trip to Broadhall Way does represent a potential banana skin, though, and the manner in which the performance of Martinez's side deteriorated in the second half at The Hawthorns on a poor pitch is something the manager should be mindful of as he prepares to deal with what promises to be an ever worse surface this weekend.

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Having struggled to impose themselves against the Baggies when they couldn't dictate the game with their usual passing game, Everton will again need to mix things up while remaining tighter at the back then they were on Monday.

As big a factor as the playing surface at West Brom was the lengthening list of injuries and niggles afflicting Martinez's squad and he lost another important player to a hamstring strain when Seamus Coleman was taken off late in the 1-1 draw. Both he and Steven Pienaar are ruled out for the Stevenage tie and if Ross Barkley is to make an early return from his fractured foot, this surely won't be the game to do it. Evertonians would far rather he return to action in Tuesday's Anfield derby.

Given those absentees — and assuming he would want to — Martinez will have fewer options with regard to squad rotation than might otherwise be the case. John Stones will likely play right back in place of Coleman while one of Bryan Oviedo or Steven Naismith could get the nod in place of Pienaar in midfield. Aiden McGeady is probably still short on match fitness but Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas, as the only fit senior forwards, should start up front.

Martinez has shifted some pressure onto the League One outfit by suggesting that Stevenage start as favourites and there is no doubting the power of the FA Cup to spring surprises but this is a tie that Everton should win. The debate among Blues fans over whether they would prefer an FA Cup win over Champions League quaification will no doubt continue so it's up to the team to keep alive the possibility that we can achieve both!

Kick off: 5.30pm

Quotes or other material sourced from ToffeeWeb Match Reports

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