Everton have had a busy summer and they are heading into the opening weekend in good spirits ahead of a match against Stoke City. They will have ambitions of breaking into the top six, but they may find that difficult to do given the strength of the teams that finished above them last season. On the other hand, the visitors will be looking to progress during the coming campaign after an underwhelming couple of years.
The big news that came out of Goodison Park this summer was the return of Wayne Rooney. The forward returned to his boyhood club and he will be hoping to end his campaign on a high back in Merseyside. It will be a lot of pressure to replace Romelu Lukaku, but he will relish the challenge. They have been one of the leading spenders and if they start strongly, they could be difficult to stop.
Mark Hughes needs to start the season well, otherwise he could quickly find himself out of a job. He is one of the longest serving managers in the Premier League, but Stoke have gone stale in recent years and a change could be required to propel them up the league table. The sale of Marko Arnautovic was a blow, but Kurt Zouma arrives in what should be a good loan deal. The Potters have a lot of talent, but their problem has been delivering consistency.
The Toffees managed to qualify from their Europa League tie against Ruzomberok. The two performances weren’t excellent, but they got the job done and qualified for the final qualifying round. In terms of friendlies, they got a good win over FC Twente, but they didn’t play any top opposition.
Stoke City had a mixed pre-season, but they did test themselves against good opposition teams, which should have provided them with useful preparation. Last weekend, they beat RB Leipzig and delivered an assured performance.
Michael Keane, Davy Klaassen, Wayne Rooney and Sandro are all in line to make their Premier League debuts for the club. Cuco Martina is another new signing that could feature.
Stoke could start with a 3-4-2-1 formation after using it against Leipzig. Mame Biram Diouf could start as a makeshift right wing-back, while Sadio Berahino could be the striker to start the season.
Aaron Lennon is a doubt ahead of the new season. James McCarthy and Ross Barkley are unlikely to feature until the end of the month. Yannick Bolasie, Ramiro Funes Mori and Seamus Coleman are on the long-term injury list.
Bojan has returned to the club, but he is suffering with a calf injury. Josh Tymon, Ibrahim Afellay and Stephen Ireland are other players that are unlikely to feature this weekend.
Score Prediction: Everton 2-1 Stoke City
It will be difficult for Everton at the start of the season as they have signed a lot of new players and they need time to gel as a team. They didn’t have a great number of friendlies, but they have played two competitive fixtures and that should give them an edge when it comes to fitness. Stoke are not looking like a great team and Hughes’ time at the club is coming to an end. The Toffees should have enough to earn the three points.