Everton boss David Moyes is prepared to face Stoke without a recognised striker - but is anxious to see his first-choice defence restored.
Frustrated by his forwards' lack of goals this season, Moyes started with midfield talisman Tim Cahill up front in Tuesday's Barclays Premier League draw at West Ham.
Cahill has scored nine of Everton's 21 league goals this term, three times as many as Louis Saha, Ayegbeni Yakubu and Jermaine Beckford combined.
The testing New Year's Day trip to the Britannia Stadium is Cahill's last match before joining his Australia team-mates for the Asia Cup but Moyes has no qualms about letting him lead the line.
Moyes said: "There was no message intended for the strikers.
"The message was that Tim Cahill has scored nine goals - third top goalscorer in the Premier League.
"I hoped he could do me a job from centre forward and get some more goals from there.
"I need somebody to score goals and if I don't find somebody I am going to have to keep looking for a solution.
"We will play the people who are in form and Tim Cahill was certainly in form.
"The strikers couldn't turn around and say they hadn't had opportunities.
"They have had opportunities to play and the supporters have had opportunities to see them."
In the end it needed a Seamus Coleman equaliser to claim a point at Upton Park.
The Hammers had taken the lead through an own goal from full-back Tony Hibbert, who was forced to play at centre-half due to injuries to Phil Jagielka and John Heitinga.
The pair are both facing fitness tests, on thigh and knee injuries respectively, and Moyes is hoping at least one of them comes through and can partner Sylvain Distin.
Stoke will check on the fitness of Matthew Etherington and Jon Walters.
Etherington (ankle) and Walters (shoulder) both had to come off during Tuesday's 2-0 defeat to Fulham as they were still feeling the effects of the knocks they had picked up in the 2-0 win at Blackburn on Boxing Day.
Robert Huth is suspended after collecting his fifth booking of the season in the game against the Cottagers.
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