Match Preview: Everton vs. Stoke City

It’s back, it’s been a long summer but the Premier League finally gets underway. The opening weekend sees us going up against Everton at Goodison Park.

Everton were active during the summer in regards to transfers. Their star man Lukaku was sold to Manchester United for £90 million and Gerard Deulofeu returned to Barcalona for £10.5 million. Losing these two attacking players shouldn’t hinder Everton too much, in the long-run, as the return of Wayne Rooney and purchase of Dutch legend, Davy Klassen should provide an opportunity for Everton to change to a new tactic and style.

Lukaku scored 25 goals for Everton last season, with Ross Barkley coming in second with only 5. The loss of his services will be felt during the first weeks of the season. Meaning Stoke should capitalize on a loss of fluidity for Everton. However, the recent signing of Jordan Pickford, from Sunderland for £30 million, will provide Everton with the chance to concede less goals than in the previous campaign.

Ronald Koeman will need to change his strategy to ensure goals this season. It’s nice for them to have Rooney back, but he’s way past his prime and how much will he actually contribute to the team? Their best chance of goals will be via central attacking midfield to new signing, Sandro Ramirez. He’s recently joined from Malaga, also a Barcelona academy graduate. Last season he bagged 14 goals in 30 appearances, he could become a useful signing as the season progresses.

Last season’s two encounters between Stoke and Everton were a 1-0 win for the Toffees and a 1-1 draw. This season Mark Hughes will be looking to collect points from opponents that will also be looking at European Spots.

As for Stoke, the summer saw the departure of fan favourites; Walters, Whelan and Marko Arnautovic. Bardsley also shown the exit doors. In the opposite direction, Stoke brought in Darren Fletcher, Josh Tymond, Kurt Zouma, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and BMI is expected to sign permanently in the coming days. All transfers at time of writing.

The defence has been looked at this summer, although Stoke’s major flaw last season was our inability to score. The return of Bojan has excited fans and Josleu has proven he deserves to stay at Stoke after scoring four goals in two games during preseason. That will help push Saido to actually score a goal now there’s added competition for the starting spot.

Under Hughes, Stoke usually has a slow start to the season, with Everton being the starting opponents, this looks like it could continue, although this season it needs to be different if Hughes wishes to keep his job. Fans are becoming frustrated with Mark after a disappointing end to last season, failing to meet any target set for him, or set by himself. Not taking into account the handling of players last season, the dressing room could quickly swing away from Hughes if Stoke fail to start well.

By Benito Fisher

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