Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes
17:30 BST, Saturday 11 August, Molineux (Wolverhampton, England), BT Sport 1
The first Saturday evening kick-off will feature two sides that have made a lot of noise in the summer transfer market when Wolves host Everton at Molineux.
Wolves dominated the Championship last time out and confirmed a deserved promotion with a few games to spare. An influx of talent from the continent ensured the side stood head and shoulders above their rivals last campaign and fans will hope the rich vein of form can continue.
For Everton, the 2017/18 season wasn’t one that brought much joy. A free-spending summer failed to pay off as the Toffees struggled for consistency throughout the campaign, finishing eighth with 49 points.
Both sides have again recruited heavily during pre-season, but which of these two new-look teams will get the upper hand on Saturday evening?
Last Time Out
Wolves 2-1 Villareal (Friendly)
Nuno’s side signed off a varied but challenging pre-season with a 2-1 win over La Liga side Villareal last weekend at Molineux.
Wolves handed starts to a handful of new signings including midfielder Joao Moutinho, and his set-pieces caused problems for the visitors early on.
The Spanish scored midway through the first half, though, when Gerard Moreno went through on goal and finished neatly. Villareal then seized the initiative until the break, with new arrival Rui Patricio keeping the deficit at just one goal.
Wolves came out stronger after the restart and were level inside four minutes when Willy Boly powered home a delicious Helder Costa delivery from a corner. Diogo Jota then provided Raul Jimenez his first goal in Wolves colours after some dogged work from Costa.
The home side were on top for the rest of the game and the comeback and spirit will delight boss Nuno ahead of the new season.
Everton 2-3 Valencia (Friendly)
The Toffees had a comparatively poor pre-season and the 3-2 loss at home to Valencia last weekend capped a run of five straight defeats. Since a meaningless run out against Austrian side ATV Irdning at the beginning of the summer ended 22-0 in favour of Marco Silva’s men, they haven’t won a game.
Valencia forward Rodrigo put the visitors ahead inside the opening ten minutes before Cenk Tosun drew Everton level shortly after.
Rodrigo and Valencia’s second of the game put the Spaniards back in front before Michael Keane cancelled out the lead once more. Substitute Daniel Wass restored the advantage as Valencia held their slender lead at the third time of asking.
The fifth loss in a row will concern boss Silva who will be under immense pressure to ensure Everton improve following a underwhelming 2017/18 campaign.
The new signings could be involved for Wolves in some capacity on Saturday, though given the 48-hour turnaround, it seems likely Nuno will name a more familiar side.
Wolves’ tried and tested 3-4-3 formation of last season looks set to continue in the Premier League, with a slight change in personnel in some areas.
Jonny Castro will assume left wing back duties and Moutinho will lineup alongside Ruben Neves in the midfield. Leon Dendoncker’s arrival may come too late for the visit of Everton on Saturday, meaning that Ryan Bennett or Romain Saiss could complete the back three.
New signing Jimenez will probably spearhead the front three, flanked by Jota and Costa.
The Toffees were very busy on deadline day though their new recruits may have to wait a week or two to earn a starting spot.
One exception may be Colombian World Cup hero Yerry Mina, who could be thrown immediately into the back four alongside Michael Keane.
New winger Bernard will probably have to settle for a place on the bench with Theo Walcott and Richarlison having had a longer pre-season at Finch Farm.
In midfield, Morgan Schneiderlin has forced his way back into his new manager’s plans and featured against Valencia last time out. Silva also has Tom Davies and loan signing Andre Gomes at his disposal should he wish for a more dynamic partnership in the centre.
Key Battle: Diogo Jota (Wolves) vs Seamus Coleman (Everton)
The Portuguese winger was a constant thorn in Championship side’s last time out and Wolves will hope the form of the dynamic Portuguese winger can continue at the top level.
Jota was on loan at Wolves last season, but his performances earned him a permanent deal at the club. The ex-Atletico Madrid man scored 17 league goals in over 40 appearances last term and his trickery and technical ability bamboozled his respective opposite numbers.
He will face a new type of challenge in the Premier League, though, and Seamus Coleman will be a provide a stern introduction. The Irish right back has a wealth of experience at this level and Everton will look to him to control and contain the threat of the Jota.
Coleman also has the tendency to get forward and join attacks and this will force Jota to track him and pick up extra defensive duties. The battle between these two could go a long way to deciding the outcome of this one.
Can Wolves live up to the hype?
It is rare to see such excitement and expectation around a newly promoted side when they enter the Premier League. With Wolves, it is an exception.
It was not only their play and performances on the pitch which attracted attention last season, but also the way they handled their business off it. Their ability to recruit players such as Jota, Neves and Leo Bonatini surprised many, but their investments have paid off, so far.
Securing promotion in such a controlled, dominant way will give this Wolves side confidence going forward into the new campaign, but it won’t be without its pressures, too.
Most sides entering the top flight aim to survive the first season and build from there, though for Wolves, the targets are much higher. There’s no doubting the talent at their disposal, but a poor run of games could lead to a change in mindset.
Everton transfer activity creating more pressure
After investing so heavily in the playing staff last summer, Everton’s failure to deliver was heavily scrutinised. Gylfi Sigurdsson, Davy Klaassen and Keane all arrived at Goodison Park last year, but failed to impress.
The Toffees, minus a splurge on Watford winger Richarlison, curbed their impulsive desire to buy sporadically. Deadline day, though, produced a few late surprises.
Bernard, Gomes and Mina all arrived at the club before the window slammed shut, but only the latter incurred a permanent fee — Bernard was snapped up on a free transfer and Gomes on a loan deal.
This — along with the earlier signing of Lucas Digne — could give the Toffees a much-changed appearance this season. Bringing in new faces is welcomed by fans, but it doesn’t come without its pressures and responsibilities — can Silva’s side handle it?
Prediction: Wolves 2-1 Everton
Wolves and their fans cannot wait to get started, and the package they are bringing to the Premier League is intriguing and exciting for neutrals, too. The home crowd will want a winning start and the visit of Everton may bring just that.
The new signings on Merseyside will take a while to gel and settle so a visit to Molineux on the opening day won’t be an attractive prospect on the back of a poor pre-season. It should be a great spectacle, this one. 2-1.
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