The Premier League season kicks off on Saturday and on the opening weekend, Everton face Stoke. Over the summer, Everton have been the most active team in the league, buying and selling numerous players, including their star striker Romelu Lukaku. Stoke have done the opposite, they have lost a couple of key players and brought a couple of new faces in, but on the whole they have been quiet.
This should be a good test for Everton to see how far they have come this summer. They have played two competitive games in Europe, and while they struggled to overcome lower opposition, that will have helped their fitness going into the new campaign.
Last season Everton finished 7th in the Premier League with 61 points, eight behind the top six. That top six will always be their aim, although it is tough to break with the six teams currently occupying it being full of quality. Wholesale changes may help them, time will tell, but what they have done this summer is gamble on a number of new signings.
Everton finished their pre-season campaign with a 2-2 draw against Sevilla at home last weekend. That was a decent result for them and much improved on their previous two games, which have both been a struggle in the Europa League. They have beaten Ruzomberok 1-0 in each of their two meetings which means they are through to the next stage of the Europa League. However, they were expected to beat this team comfortably, and although they won, that score line will have been a disappointment to the fans.
Stoke finished last season in 13th position with 44 points, right in the middle of what was a very tight table at the end of the season. They finished just two points off 8th place and four points ahead of 17th place, showing just how tight the table was. They haven’t made too many changes, and any improvement they can find will give them a chance to move up the table this season.
Stoke have had a mixed pre-season, winning three games, losing two and drawing one. Their most recent game saw them win 2-1 away to Leipzig, a good result that will have boosted their confidence at just the right time. After losing Jonathan Walters and Marko Arnautovic many thought that Stoke may struggle to score goals but that hasn’t been the case in pre-season. They have scored ten goals in their six games, and hopefully for them that continues throughout the season.
With so many new faces, it is impossible to predict just how Everton are going to line-up. Their attacking line-up will rely a lot on how quickly Wayne Rooney, Davy Klaassen and Sandro Ramirez can gel together, they could potentially form a deadly partnership if they click. They have to replace the goals they had last season from Romelu Lukaku, and these three will look to all chip in collectively and do that.
Stoke are going to line-up pretty similar to last season after only making minimal changes to their squad. Newcomer Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting will have to replace the creativity of Marko Arnautovic in midfield, he has joined the club on a free transfer from Schalke. Stoke will be hoping their togetherness and continuity will be able to pick them up some early points while their opponents are still finding their feet.
Top Betting Tips
With Everton struggling in Europe and having to sort out their team due to the amount of new players arriving, now is probably the best time to play them. Everton are a better team than Stoke, especially with the game being played at Everton. However, this is a good time for Stoke to play Everton, and I think they are capable of taking a point away from Goodison Park.
I am going to back 1-1 in this game, I believe both teams will score, but I also think that Stoke can hold out for a draw in the game. The score 1-1 can be backed at 13/2 with Ladbrokes and William Hill, which offers good value in a game that I believe will be close.
Everton will eventually be the better team, but right now is a good time to play them while they continue to work in their new players. Stoke have the advantage of a settled squad and I believe that is enough to get them a draw from this game.