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Stoke City (H) Fri 26 Dec 2014, 15:00, Barclays Premier League

Howard Out, Mucha In For Blues

by Adam Clark @efc_adamclark

After 210 consecutive Premier League appearances, Tim Howard's unbroken run in the Everton goal will come to an end this afternoon - meaning a top-flight debut for Jan Mucha.

American Howard has failed to overcome the knock he sustained during Tuesday's FA Cup victory over Oldham, so the Slovakian signed from Legia Warsaw in July 2010 comes in.

As expected, Marouane Fellaini has shaken off the injury that forced him to sit out five days ago and the Belgian returns to the starting line-up in place of Phil Neville.

There are no other changes, meaning Mucha will line-up behind a defence of Seamus Coleman, stand-in skipper Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin and Leighton Baines, with Kevin Mirallas, Leon Osman, Darron Gibson and Steven Pienaar accompanying Fellaini in midfield.

Croatian Nikica Jelavic is the lone man in attack, though Victor Anichebe has passed a late fitness test and will occupy a place on the bench.

There he will be joined by John Heitinga, Bryan Oviedo, Steven Naismith, Thomas Hitzlsperger, Neville and 18-year-old goalkeeper Mason Springthorpe.   

A July 2011 arrival from Shrewsbury Town, it is the youngster's first inclusion in a first-team squad.

Former Blues Academy midfielder Hope Akpan starts for the visitors, as does top scorer Adam Le Fondre.

Everton:
Mucha, Coleman, Baines, Jagielka (c), Distin, Mirallas, Pienaar, Osman, Gibson, Fellaini, Jelavic. Subs: Heitinga, Oviedo, Naismith, Hitzlsperger, Neville, Anichebe, Springthorpe

Reading: Taylor, Pearce, Mariappa, Leigertwood, Le Fondre, Hunt, McAnuff (c), Kebe, Harte, Kelly, Akpan. Subs: Henly, Gunter, Karacan, McCleary, Morrison, Robson-Kanu, Blackman.

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