As the Premier League season kicks off, Everton welcomes Stoke City to Merseyside looking to get their campaign off to a flying start. At the same time, Southampton will play hosts to Welsh club Swansea, hoping to grab all three points. Last but not least, Tony Pulis’ West Brom will ‘entertain’ their first opponents of the season, Bournemouth, as they prepare for a match between teams of contrasting styles.
EVERTON vs. STOKE CITY
Three-Way: 1: Everton -135; X: +288 Draw; 2: Stoke City +490
Spread -0.5: Everton -139; Stoke City +131
Total +2.5: Over +117; Under -122
Under Ronald Koeman, Everton has started to gain reputation as the team most likely to breach the top six threshold of the big boys in the Premier League. Last year, they managed to put in some various high quality performances, and at one point, they looked like they might finish in the top six, such was their consistency. However, a few blips here and there, meant that they had to settle for a seventh placed finish. They have become resilient at the back with Ashley Williams leading the line, and some exciting youngsters adding enthusiasm and pace to their game play.
They have been absolutely wonderful in the transfer market, at least on paper. They have lost Lukaku to Manchester United, but in return, have got 84 million Euros, plus their former prodigy Rooney back, so it looks like a decent deal. In addition to the England record goalscorer, they have also added forward Sandro Ramirez for 6 million, and winger Henry Onyekuru for 8 million, fending off many big clubs.
They have managed to sign Davy Klassen from Ajax to bring some creativity in the midfield, for 27 million, while bringing in Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane from Sunderland and Burnley for 28.5 million Euros each. Such young transfer window arrivals, with none except Rooney above the age of 24, it is clear the Toffees are planning with the future in mind.
The Merseysiders took part in four preseason friendlies, and Europa league third round qualifying tie. In the friendlies, they won two and drew the other two. Everton had easy victories in both the legs, as they defeated Ruzomberok by the scorelines of 1:0 home, and 0:1 away. This scoreline does indicate that even though they are pretty good in creating chances, they do tend to fluff their chances to score goals.
Winger Yannick Bolasie will continue to be on the sidelines, as he is recovering from his knee operation, and won’t be back till January in all probability. Joining him on the sideline is Ramiro Funes Mori, who will also miss most of the season and will not be back until April. Fan favorite Seamus Coleman is still out with a fractured leg, and has no return date set for comeback to the first team.
Last season, though wasn’t a major disappointment, was not a very good one. The Potters are known as a mid-table club that more or less finish around the tenth position in the Premier League rankings, which is why last year’s 13th position finish is being looked as a blip. However, Stoke are a team that is capable of getting results against big teams and on important occasions, they pull off some great displays. With a greater squad understanding as they enter their 4th season under Mark Hughes, there is no reason why Stoke City can’t improve on last year’s performances. Moreover, they have made some smart transfers so far, which has boosted the mood in and around the club.
In terms of departures, on terms of ability alone, Marko Arnautovic and Jonathan Walters, along with Glen Whelan will be sorely missed, but the combined 26.6 million Euros recouped from those sales will help the club rebuild. It is interesting to point out that there has been no permanent transfer to the club so far. They have added Schalke winger Choupo-Moting to add some pace and guile upfront.
Joining him is the experienced veteran Darren Fletcher, who might prove to be a valuable asset due to his composure and ability at the very top level. In defense, they have added teenager Josh Tymon from Hull City, hoping to groom him into a fine left back, while Chelsea’s highly rated youngster Kurt Zouma has also joined on a loan deal, which might just prove highly effective for the club. All the above mentioned transfers, except Zouma, have been on free transfers.
The Potters have had an intensive preseason, as they have played out a total of nine friendly matches. Out of those nine matches, they had won four, lost five, and drawn one, which shows that they haven’t yet clicked into top gear. The last of those matches was an impressive win against Leipzig by 2:1. In total, they have scored 14 goals in these nine matches, while conceding 18 goals, showing existing defensive frailties.
The only current injury concern is striker Joselu, who injured his Achilles tendon in April, and has no return date set.
EVERTON vs. STOKE CITY – Match Prediction:
Lots of new signings, new formations and the returning cheering of the Merseyside fans, all make this tie a very interesting one in prospect. Looking at the squads of both the teams, we can see many talented individuals, who are able to turn a match on its head in just a moment. However, considering the fact that Everton has been one of the best team in Europe when it comes to strengthening their team, they look like the better team among the two.
Moreover, this being a home match for the Merseyside team, it is very difficult to see Everton open their Premier League campaign with anything but a home win.
MY PICK: Everton to win (-135)
SOUTHAMPTON vs. SWANSEA
Three-way: 1: Southampton -149; X: +300 Draw; 2: Swansea +550
Spread -1: Southampton +120; Swansea -122
Total +2.5: Over +119; Under -125
The south coast club continues their reputation as a club that frequently loses their star players and managers, but still manages to perform decently in the Premier League. This season is no different, as the club has been under intense speculation as many of their top players have been targeted by big clubs, and they have had a change in managers with Claude Puel leaving office after just one year and Mauricio Pellegrino coming in as his permanent replacement. The fans will be hoping that the club doesn’t allow too many of its players to go, and have another good season as they aim for a challenge against the top teams in the Premier League.
The club hasn’t been active in the transfer market except for a few dealings. They have let go of English forward Jay Rogriguez, who has joined West Brom for 13.7 million Euros. In terms of arrivals, they have signed highly rated Juventus youngster Mario Lemina for a sum of 17 million Euros, as he looks to add solidity to the midfield. As Virgil Van Dijk has been a transfer mill darling, and looks set to leave, they have wasted no time in finding a replacement, and have signed Poland youngster Jan Bednarek from Lech Poznan for 6 million. He will be tasked with maintaining the defense like Fonte and Van Dijk had been doing in the previous few years.
The South Coast club has played five pre-season friendly matches, which has helped the new arrivals to settle into the team. They had won two, drawn two, and lost one of these five matches, with a 2:0 win against Sevilla being the highlight. During this period, they had scored seven goals, and conceded 6, keeping three clean sheets, which show the capabilities of the squad defensively.
Goalkeeper Alex McCarthy continues his spell on the sidelines as he is recovering from his torn hamstring. Joining him is striker Shane Long, who is out due to a Metatarseral Fracture suffered towards the end of the last campaign. Virgil Van Dijk is also expected to miss the match as speculation states that he is about to join either Chelsea or Liverpool.
The Welsh club had a truly happening season last year. They started off horribly, as a change of manager didn’t help, and they ended up sacking Bob Bradley in a few months. Then they signed up Paul Clement to take the reins, and he successfully managed to make an impressive survival battle as they managed to finish 15th in the final Premier League ranking and stay up in the league. This season, Paul Clement will be hopeful of having a good start from the first, to avoid last year’s struggle, and ensure that the fans are not going back home disappointed match after match.
There hasn’t been much happening in the transfer window in terms of arrivals. They have let go of midfielder Jack Cork to Burnley, forward Bafetimbi Gomis to Galatasaray and Madou Barrorw to Reading, for a combined fees of 13.3 million Euros. They have used this amount to sign a couple of new players. The Swans have signed Spanish Midfielder Roque Mesa from Las Palmas in hopes of replacing Jack Cork in a deal worth 12.5 million Euros. They have also brought in keeper Erwin Mulder from Heerenveen to provide back up to Fabianski.
However, the most attractive signing in this window has been a loan deal. The Welsh club has managed to land highly rated Chelsea youngster Tammy Abraham on a yearlong loan. The club will be hoping that the teenager, who became the top scoring teenager in the championship last year, can repeat his exploits and get goals for them on a regular basis.
The Swans have had a good pre season, where they played six club friendly matches, and were able to get their squad into a proper rhythm. They lost the first of these six games, and then got three wins in their next five matches, while drawing the other two. During this stretch, they scored 8 goals, and conceded four, while also keeping three clean sheets.
There are three players who will not be available for the weekend clash. Winger Nathan Dyer continues his recovery from the Achilles tendon injury, while forward Fernando Llorente is suffering from a fractured arm. The third absentee will be wide-man Jefferson Montero, who has been out since the end of last campaign due to a muscle injury.
SOUTHAMPTON vs. SWANSEA – Match Prediction:
Both of these teams are looking forward to a positive start to the season, so as to set a tone for the Premier League campaign and improve upon last year’s standings. Both the teams haven’t really made a whole lot of changes to their squads, and are more or less the same squad from last season, barring a few new additions and departures.
Considering the fact it is a home match for the Saints, I feel that they will be the team that will get the three points, albeit with some tough competition from the Swans. Therefore, my prediction will be a home win for Southampton with a possible over!
MY PICK: Southampton to win (-149)
Additional Pick: Over 2.5 goals (+119)
WEST BROMWICH ALBION vs. BOURNEMOUTH
Three-way: 1: West Bromwich Albion +150; X: +229 Draw; 2: Bournemouth +229
Spread 0: West Bromwich Albion -132; Bournemouth +129
Total +2.5: Over +127; Under -133
WEST BROMWICH ALBION
Last season, West Brom were notorious in the eyes of the big Premier League teams and their fans. They were absolutely determined in being solid defensively, and hit teams on counters or set pieces. The physical and hardworking nature of the team was clearly a result of hard drilled training sessions under welsh manager Tony Pulis. They finished tenth last season in the Premier League, and the fans will be hoping that they are able to keep up the same defensive excellence and continue on the upward trajectory.
They haven’t been active in the transfer market, at least when compared to the other teams in the league. They have still made a couple of good signings, as Jay Rodriguez joins the club from Southampton for a deal worth 13.7 million Euros. Joining him on the new arrivals list is Vitesse youngster Yuning Zhang. The Chinese forward has arrived on a 7.2 million deal. However, he has been sent on loan to Werder Bremen for further development.
The Baggies have had a really poor preseason preparation. They played a total of nine friendly matches, winning only two of them, and drawing one, while losing the other six matches. During this disappointing stretch of games, they have scored 10 goals, while conceding 13 goals, which show their inefficiency at both the ends of the field.
There are no major injury concerns for the Baggies, except Matt Philips, who is still out with the hamstring injury he suffered in the month of April.
Under Eddie Howe, the Cherries have earned a reputation for being one of the few ‘small’ teams that aren’t afraid to play positive football, no matter who the opposition is. Such fearlessness and commitment from the players and the manager, has seen Bournemouth turn into a decent team in the past two season in the Premier League. With a 9th placed finish last year, Howe and his team surely have it in them to give a go to the teams that finished ahead of them. With some very impressive signings, one should keep an eye out for the team, as they can cause major upsets in the league, as Jurgen Klopp would agree.
This transfer window, they haven’t made many signings, but the few they have made are very good ones. In a double raid at Chelsea, they have welcomed back two players. Asmir Begovic, who spent a part of his Early carrier at Bournemouth, returns to the club for 11.5 million Euros, while Nathan Ake, the defender who impressed everyone at Dean court during his Loan spell here last season with his composed defending and set piece expertise in the opposition box, has become the most expensive player in the clubs history, as he joins the club, this time on a permanent deal worth 22.8 million. They have also signed the seemingly evergreen striker Jermain Defoe for free, which might turn out to be a great signing considering his ability to find the net no matter where he plays.
In the preseason, the South coast club played six friendlies, and had a good string of results. In this duration, they managed to grab 4 wins, one draw, and a loss. They scored 10 goals, while conceding six, which make up for an average reading.
There are three players that are currently in the medical room for the Cherries. Keeper Adam Federici has still not recovered from the knee injury that kept him out for half of the season last campaign, while Andrew Surman also hasn’t recovered from his knee injury, that he suffered towards the end of the campaign. Forward Callum Wilson will also be out, as he works on his recovery from Cruciate Ligament injury.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION vs. BOURNEMOUTH
This is a match that can show us a battle between two Premier League teams that have polar opposite mentalities. West Brom are known for their determined defensive work, while the Cherries have garnered a reputation for being positive in their approach play. Home advantage plays in favor of the Baggies, but the Cherries have enough in their tanks to counter that. This match is going to be an intriguing one, as the teams battle it out for three points. Looking at both the teams, my prediction will be a low scoring draw.
My Pick: Under 2.5 goals (-133)
Additional Pick: Draw X (+229)
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