Verdict: Home win
Best Odds: 7/10
Everton have their sights set on a potential UEFA Champions League berth this season, while Stoke City will be among the teams that will try to avoid relegation and maybe surprise with a Top 10 finish. Both teams will start their Premier League campaign this Saturday at Goodison Park. Kick-off time is scheduled at 3 PM UK time.
Ronald Koeman’s men started their season on the right note after eliminating Ruzomberok in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Europa League. However, the challenge of Stoke City will be far tougher since The Potters have been one of the most hard-working teams in the Premier League over the past few years. But there is no question Everton have improved vastly over the summer. The presence of elements such as Wayne Rooney, Sandro Ramirez and Davy Klaassen should help them offset the loss of Romelu Lukaku, while Jordan Pickford is likely to provide quite a boost on defence. Considering they have spent nearly €100 million this summer, there is no doubt Everton are gunning for a Top 4 finish. And starting with a win over Stoke would be quite a way to state their intentions to the rest of the league.
Everton will have Wayne Rooney available, but Koeman will have to deal with a number of absences for the season opener.
Ross Barkley (groin), Seamus Coleman (broken leg) and Ramiro Funes Mori (undisclosed) are all sidelined. And winger Aaron Lennon will be a game-time decision due to a minor knock suffered in training this week.
On the other hand, Stoke do not have many chances to get into a top finish in the Premier League, and they could be happy if they sit in the top 10 of the standings once the season ends. The best proof of that is their activity in the transfer market, as they stand pat with the exception of acquiring Bruno Martins Indi and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. They lost Marko Arnautovic, however, so they might miss the Austrian playmaker. To make things a bit more complicated for Stoke, they also struggled on the road last season. The Potters finished with only four wins, five draws and 10 losses on the road. That record should not inspire a lot of confidence heading into this fixture, especially if we consider that Everton have improved vastly compared to last season.
Stoke City will be almost at full strength ahead of this game with the exception of Ibrahim Afellay. The Dutch winger is out due to a knee injury.
Bojan Krkic (calf) and Josh Tymon (foot) are doubtful. Both will be game-time decisions for the coaching staff.
Key Factors to Consider
- Most of Everton’s new signings are expected to start, so there is a high chance we can see the league debuts of Rooney, Sandro, Pickford, Keane and Klaassen.
- Stoke have not been nearly as active in the transfer market, but they recently acquired Kurt Zouma from Chelsea on loan.
- Everton won 1-0 when both sides played in Goodison Park last season.
- The overall record favours Everton, as they have registered 8W 5L and 6D in 19 matches against Stoke.
- Between these two teams there is an average of 2.8 goals per game over the last 5 games.
Everton have improved their side considerably over the summer, and the return of Rooney to Goodison Park will certainly be an emotional one. The Toffees have the better squad on both ends of the pitch, so they are likely to escape with the three points in their league debut.
Verdict: Home win
Best Odds: 7/10
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