Everton v Stoke
Saturday 12 August, 15:00
Rebuilt Everton start life without Lukaku
Ronald Koeman has spent around £100m this summer, with the club's transfer record broken twice in signing defender Michael Keane from Burnley and goalkeeper Jordan Pickford from Sunderland. The other big fee was spent on Ajax midfielder Davy Klaassen, while there was also the intriguing free arrival of old boy Wayne Rooney from Manchester United.
Apart from Rooney, the accent is on youth (don't forget the fast-emerging Tom Davies, Ademola Lookman and Dominic Calvert-Lewin) and this is set to be an exciting season as Koeman looks to build on last season's seventh place. Everton are [3.4] for a top-six finish and [11.5] to break into the top four.
There was a 15-point gap to the top four and bridging that will be a huge task, especially after the departure of top scorer Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United. He provided 25 Premier League goals and six assists last season, which meant he had a direct part in exactly half of Everton's goals, and Koeman is likely to need more additions up front than Rooney and Sandro Ramírez, the Spain under-21 forward signed from Málaga.
Stoke need to get out of their rut
In contrast to Everton, this has been a quiet summer in the transfer market for Stoke and few are predicting any advance on last season's 13th place; in fact, many are expecting further decline for Mark Hughes's side, who slumped badly in the second half of last season and managed just two wins in their last 11 matches.
The summer arrivals are winger Eric Choupo-Moting from Schalke, experienced midfielder Darren Fletcher from West Brom, young left-back Josh Tymon from Hull and defender Kurt Zouma on loan from Chelsea. All decent signings, but at the same time Hughes has lost forward Marko Arnautovic to West Ham and the experienced trio of Phil Bardsley, Jonathan Walters and Glenn Whelan.
Hosts difficult to oppose
Everton had the fourth-best home record in the Premier League last season (W13 D4 L2), better than Liverpool and the two Manchester clubs, and that was after a somewhat wobbly start that saw them win only three of their first seven under Koeman at Goodison Park.
The only teams to take points from Goodison in the 12 subsequent games were Liverpool and Chelsea (both winners) and that record points strongly to an Everton win here. They are [1.71] for the win.
It is encouraging for Everton that Lukaku scored the opening goal in only three of their 13 home wins last season, although of course he was on hand to create assists and general mayhem with his barnstorming style and that is something none of the new-look squad can replicate.
Stoke had a W1 D3 L6 record away to the top 10 last season and, perhaps more pertinently, a W0 D3 L7 record against the top 10 home teams (with only one clean sheet in those 10 matches).
That is an area where they must improve but it is difficult to see them doing so without an injection of goals - only one team (West Brom) outside last season's bottom five scored fewer goals on the road than Stoke.
Everton had an even split of over/under 2.5 goals last season and only just crept above that at home (53% overs), mainly because they were pretty efficient at keeping clean sheets (only four teams had more).
Both matches against Stoke last season had under 2.5 goals (1-0 at home, 1-1 away) and that looks likely again, with the Potters ranking second overall for unders (61%) last season and joint-top with Sunderland on the road (63%).
Home win to nil is inviting
Everton had one of the higher percentages of wins to nil at home last season and overall 11 of their 17 wins came with a clean sheet, so that is a clear objective for Koeman.
With Stoke having failed to score in six of their last eight away games last season, there is a good chance Everton can shut them out here and take three points.
Bookings could go high
Neil Swarbrick is in his eighth season in the Premier League and it might be worth looking towards the higher end of the booking counts, with two-thirds of his matches last season reaching 40 bookings points or more.
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