August 06, 2015

Everton face some tough matches in the early weeks of the new Premier League campaign and will be looking for maximum points Saturday when they entertain newly promoted Watford at Goodison Park.

The Toffees' early season schedule includes games against Southampton, Manchester City, Tottenham, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United as well as Arsenal - all top-seven finishers in 2014-15 - and manager Roberto Martinez will be desperate to avoid a repeat of the last campaign when they made a slow start and finished in the bottom half of the table for the first time since 2006.

"The fixture list hasn't been too kind to us but we are ready to face a strong challenge in the first 10 games - we face seven of the top 10 sides in the league from the last campaign," Martinez said. "As a team we have to achieve, be successful and do a lot better in the league than we did in the last campaign.

"I am very excited with the feeling in the dressing room and we know that every game at home we are going to make it a really special place to play our football. We want to succeed, we want to play well, we want to win games – and we want to start that in a competitive manner on Saturday."

Everton have strengthened their squad with the summer signings of forwards Gerard Deulofeu and David Henen, plus midfielder Tom Cleverley. The Merseysiders also have rejected two bids from Chelsea for 21-year-old defender John Stones, and Martinez insists the England international is not for sale.

Watford clinched promotion after finishing runners-up in the Championship and return to Premier League action for the first time in eight years.

Slavisa Jokanovic led the Hornets back into the top flight but left the club after failing to agree on terms for a new contract. Watford hired former Atletico Madrid and Getafe boss Quique Flores as head coach on June 5, becoming the fifth man in 12 months to hold the job.

Apart from having a new man in the dugout, Watford have also signed a host of new players including midfielders Etienne Capoue and Valon Behrami from Tottenham and Hamburg, respectively.

"We are ready, and we are excited to start in the Premier League," ex-Spain international Flores told his club's website. "We are working hard to focus on this match, so for us this is a perfect moment. I expect a high performance. We are always working hard to make a high performance and the players are working very well, so we have a good and interesting match we can offer the fans.

"We are going to play against a tough team like Everton, and it is always important to start well, but I have a lot of confidence with the players. I am very happy to lead these players into the Premier League and it will be interesting to see what the response of the team is."

Everton slumped over the line last season, losing three of their final four matches to finish with a negative goal difference (minus-2) for the first time since 2004-05.

Watford won 13 of their 23 away matches in the Championship last season last season and scored 43 goals on their travels.

The Toffees will give striker Romelu Lukaku (hamstring) a late fitness test, while Stones and Kevin Mirallas are expected to shake off the ankle knocks. Tony Hibbert and Steven Pienaar (both hamstring) have been ruled out. The Hornets will be without suspended defender Miguel Britos, while midfielders Ikechi Anya and Jose Manuel Jurado are doubtful.

This will be the first meeting in any competition between Everton and Watford since February 2007, when the Toffees won 3-0 at Vicarage Road in the Premier League as the Hornets were relegated that season.

Everton have won all four of the all-time Premier League meetings between these sides by a 12-4 aggregate.

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