Everton vs Stoke Preview: Previous Encounter, Key Battle, Team News & More
Everton and Stoke clash at Goodison Park on Saturday in the pair's opening match of the 2017/18 Premier League season.
With plenty of transfer activity on both sides and a tough pre-season schedule out of the way, managers Ronald Koeman and Mark Hughes will be aiming to get their campaigns off the best possible start with all three points.
Here's everything you need to know about the Toffees' and Potters' game on the opening day of the top flight's return:
The last duel between these two teams came back in February when veteran striker Peter Crouch netted his 100th Premier League goal.
The 35-year-old forward brought his infamous robot celebration out of retirement after he turned home Charlie Adam's low cross after just seven minutes, but Stoke's lead wasn't to last too long.
Indeed, Ryan Shawcross embarrassingly fired past his own goalkeeper from Seamus Coleman's goalbound effort and, for a brief period, it seemed as if the goal would be ruled out for offside.
As it was, referee Craig Pawson allowed the controversial strike to stand after former striker Romelu Lukaku was deemed not to have been interfering with play, and the two sides held out for a point apiece after a tetchy second 45 minutes.
Gueye & Schneiderlin vs Fletcher & Allen
With Everton and Stoke more likely to employ defensively resiliency over a gung-ho approach - thanks in no small part to their lack of a 20+ goal a season striker - the battle in centre midfield will define how this game plays out.
The Toffees' destructive pair of Idrissa Gana Gueye and Morgan Schneiderlin are a match for any centre midfield pairing on their day, and their quick turnover of possession, disciplined positioning and success in the tackle will prove a tough nut to crack for the visitors.
However, in summer recruit Darren Fletcher and the understated Joe Allen, the Potters will have their own fairly dynamic midfield duo and will aim to disrupt Everton's flow on home turf.
The pair that comes out on top will certainly have a big say in where a potential victory lies, but there will be only so much either duo can do if neither team's forward lines produce the goods where it matters.
Blues boss Koeman has confirmed that wantaway star Ross Barkley and James McCarthy will not feature due to groin and thigh issues respectively.
The Dutchman is also unable to call upon long-term injured trio Seamus Coleman (broken leg), Yannick Bolasie (knee) and Ramiro Funes Mori (knee), but will look to give six new squad members their Premier League bows.
Boyhood Blue Wayne Rooney will make his second senior league debut, while Michael Keane, Sandro Ramirez, Jordan Pickford, Davy Klaassen and Cuco Martina could all be involved.
For Stoke, Hughes must do without Stephen Ireland (broken leg) and Ibrahim Afellay (knee) for the trip to Goodison Park.
Doubts persist over the involvement of Bojan Krkic (calf) and Josh Tymon (foot) as well, but the Welshman may be able to hand debuts to the likes of Kurt Zouma and Fletcher following their summer switches to the Bet365 Stadium.
Predicted Everton Starting Lineup: Pickford; Martina, Keane, Williams, Baines; Gueye, Schneiderlin; Calvert-Lewin, Klaassen, Mirallas; Rooney.
Predicted Stoke Starting Lineup: Butland; Johnson, Shawcross, Zouma, Pieters; Fletcher, Allen; Sobhi, Berahino, Shaqiri; Diouf.
With only one defeat to Stoke in the last five meetings and an unbeaten pre-season schedule that included a 2-0 aggregate Europa League victory over MFK Ruzomberok, Everton will be likely favourites for Saturday's match.
Koeman has his men well drilled all over the park and, in contrast to a year ago, their fitness levels are much improved. Couple that with a run of four league games against four of last season's top six after this one, and three points are imperative.
Hughes, meanwhile, will hope that his side can spring an opening day upset and get themselves off to a better start than last season when it took them until October to register their first league win.
Expect defences to come out on top from this encounter, with the Toffees edging it by the odd goal.
Prediction: Everton 1-0 Stoke City