Everton vs Stoke City Preview: Blues looking to ride pre-season form into Premier League opener

Everton will kick off their Premier League campaign against Stoke City on Saturday, looking to carry their pre-season form into the real thing.

Ronald Koeman’s side have yet to suffer a defeat in pre-season and will be hoping to continue the form that has seen them already progress into the Europa League play-off stage when they take on Mark Hughes’ men.

The Blues haven’t won an opening day fixture since the 1-0 win over Manchester United in 2012 and will be itching to change that fact in front of a sold-out and expectant Goodison Park crowd.

In Focus: Can the new signings gel quickly?

If there’s one thing to take away from the pre-season form of Everton, it’s that despite the good results, the performances haven’t been all that great. Even in their 1-0 wins over MFK Ruzomberok, the Blues were lacklustre and carved out little in front goal.

Koeman's men may have dominated possession in both games but were only able to produce 20 shots, with five of those on target, over the two legs.

That’s not going to cut it considering Koeman’s side early run of fixtures.

One problem that has been mooted is that despite the influx of early signings, the squad has yet to gel.

Last Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Sevilla was a performance more representative of what Blues fans will be expecting come 3 pm on Saturday afternoon.

Following the summer spending, expectations have changed at Goodison Park and with more spending to come - Gylfi Sigurdsson’s signature is seemingly close - the Blues are moving upwards and looking forward.

Still, performances and results have to be much better than the last campaign.

Sigurdsson is seemingly the creative outlet Koeman wants his team to play around. Davy Klaassen, Sandro Ramirez and Wayne Rooney are all attacking options that look to get into and around the 18-yard-box and find the net, but they’re not always creating chances.

Koeman is looking to play Rooney as a striker and doesn’t necessarily want him dropping back into midfield to create chances whilst Klaassen’s play style is more Tim Cahill than Mikel Arteta.

The Dutch midfielder was able to rack up 20 goals and 12 assists during his last Eredivisie campaign with Ajax but Everton will be looking for him to replicate his goal scoring form more than his ability to create chances.

Last season’s seventh place finish is something to build from but not something they’ll be looking to replicate this season. It’ll be something of the past, if all the new signings are able to gel properly.

Come Saturday, it all starts again.

A look at: Stoke City

The Potters will be looking to build on last season’s finishing position of 13th. Mark Hughes’ side may have lost a key man in Marko Arnautovic but have retained a number of talented players to fit Hughes’ system.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting signed on a free transfer earlier in the week and will likely start from the bench.

The obvious danger man is Swiss winger Xherdan Shaqiri. The 25-year-old nearly signed for Everton prior to joining Stoke and has only given the Toffees headaches in his appearances against them.

He scored a stunning goal in Stoke’s 4-3 win in December 2015 when he chipped Tim Howard from outside the 18-yard box.

As a quick and skilful winger who can line-up on either side, he’ll be a test for whichever full-back he plays against, whether it be Leighton Baines, Cuco Martina, Mason Holgate or Jonjoe Kenny.

Probable line-ups

Everton: Pickford, Martina, Keane, Jagielka, Williams, Baines, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Klaassen, Rooney and Sandro.

Stoke: Butland, Diouf, Zouma, Shawcross, Cameron, Allen, Fletcher, Bojan, Sobhi, Shaqiri and Berahino.

Match Day Stats:

  1. Everton have not won on the opening day of the Premier League season since 2012 (1-0 win over Manchester United.)
  2. The Blues have drawn every opening fixture since that last win - three 2-2 draws and a single 1-1 draw.
  3. Stoke City have only beaten Everton three times at Goodison Park in the Premier League ( 3 wins, 5 losses, 1 draw)