Two of the most-changed sides in this season’s Premier League face off on the season’s first weekend. Both of these sides were heavily active throughout the transfer window, with Everton pushing through three deals in the last hour of deadline day alone.
Wolves, who ran away with the Championship last season, are about to find out exactly how big the gap is between the division they escaped last season and the one they will look to compete in this time around. Their summer dealings involved the signing of almost an entire new team, and in particular the arrival of several Portuguese internationals to join the growing Iberian contingent under former Porto coach Nuno Espirito Santo.
All of the home side’s new signings have multiplied the level of expectation that has been on them to perform, but a salutary lesson comes in the form of the team lining up opposite them today. A year ago, it was Everton who were felt to have recruited most impressively throughout the window, and they ended up finishing eighth, having sacked a manager in the interim period. This summer, they’ve been active again, but most crucially have appointed the manager they wanted in the form of former Watford coach Marco Silva.
Much of today’s speculation will revolve around how quickly the Wolves revolution will gel. Adding a lot of quality players, as they have, certainly gives them a chance to stay in the Premier League. However, the road of recently promoted teams with ambitious signing strategies is littered with Middlesbroughs and Hull Cities. Forming the new influx into a coherent team is the trick, and if Espirito Santo can do that then Wolves could be a joy to watch this season.
Our Wolves vs Everton Prediction: Wolves 2-2 Everton
Several players here will be making their debuts, and will be keen to make a big impact. Aside from the fact that neither of these teams is seen as a title contender, this game has the potential to grab the opening weekend’s biggest headlines, with plenty of the players on show capable of something spectacular. It has the feeling of a classic slugfest, but with so much newness on show, it may lack balance.
The good news for the neutral is that where balance is in short supply, goals often flow. This evening in the West Midlands will see plenty of attacking football and there are players on both sides capable of providing them. While Wolves’ addition of the Portuguese international goalkeeper Rui Patricio is a canny signing, he may well find himself picking the ball out of his net more than once today. Likewise for England’s World Cup hero Jordan Pickford.
Our recommended tip: Cenk Tosun to score
Although there are plenty of new toys for both sets of fans to get excited about, the player most likely to grab a goal in this opening day clash is a relative veteran for the blue half of Merseyside, having arrived in January. Tosun took a moment to find his feet at Goodison, but when he did, he started using them to put the ball in the net; form he has continued through pre-season and will hope to carry into the new campaign.
With a full summer behind him, Tosun could well show himself to be worth the £25million Sam Allardyce parted with to prise him from Besiktas last winter. The smart addition of winger Richarlison from Watford means the supply of chances is likely to increase, and the Turkish international is an excellent bet to get among the goals this weekend.
For a side of Wolves’ name recognition within the English game, they have spent a surprising amount of their history outside the top division, and this season sees them back in the Premier League for the first time in seven seasons. Therefore, these sides haven’t met since 2012. Of the players who took the field that day, only Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka are still active for one of these teams today, although Seamus Coleman – likely to start at right-back for the Toffees this evening – did make the bench.
A very end-of-season encounter between an already-relegated Wolves and an Everton side that had more or less given up on Europe, it ended 0-0 at Molineux that day. The game at Goodison Park that season had ended 2-1 to the home side. Stephen Hunt scored a penalty for Wolves on 37, before Jagielka headed home for the hosts just before half time. With time running out, Everton were awarded a penalty, which was emphatically dispatched by Baines for the game’s winning goal.
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Players to watch: Joao Moutinho & Richarlison
Although other new signings will score more goals, go on more exciting dribbles and – hopefully – make more saves, Moutinho could be the most crucial signing of Wolves’ summer spree. An intelligent deep-lying playmaker, he was secured from former Champions League semi-finalists Monaco.
Time will tell how he settles in the Premier League, but if his skill and vision are harnessed, he will be the one who gives Wolves their tempo and their license to play. His range of passing will likely be in evidence here today, with both sides likely to favour a possession-based game.
Richarlison is a player who was linked with just about every club in the Premier League last season, after his spectacular early-season form helped Watford into the top half of the league. When Marco Silva was linked with the Everton job, it was expected that Richarlison would join him on Merseyside. Now he has – if six months later than expected – his performances will be keenly-watched to see if he replicates the form of last season. If he does, then Everton have themselves a player.
If he doesn’t? Well, then they’ll have spent £40million on a nice idea. They did it last season with Gylfi Sigurdsson, so at least they’re used to it.