MX23RW : Tuesday, August 14 09:10:48
Tuesday, August 14

Premier League

Preview: Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Everton - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews the return to Premier League action of Wolverhampton Wanderers as they welcome Everton to Molineux.

Wolverhampton Wanderers make their return to the Premier League on Saturday evening as they welcome Everton to Molineux.

It is also the dawn of a new era for the Toffees as Marco Silva takes the helm looking to pick up the pieces from a disappointing 2017-18 campaign.


Wolves

A lot has changed in the six years since Wolves were last in the top flight. Mick McCarthy's English pragmatism has made way for the continental excitement of Nuno Espirito Santo's side, who romped away with the Championship title last season.

In many ways, Wolves were the Manchester City of the second tier - unmatchable in every department. They won the most games, scored the most goals and conceded the least, and only a post-promotion slip up in the final two games prevented them from eclipsing 100 points.

With the help of Jorge Mendes in the transfer market, the West Midlands outfit have been planning for the Premier League since the start of last season and the likes of Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota will be itching to test themselves at the highest level.

Wolves have strengthened their Portuguese connection with the bargain signings of Joao Moutinho and Rui Patricio, who have 186 international caps between them, while Adama Traore and Leander Dendonker represent more youthful captures with an eye on the future.

There is optimism among the club's fanbase that the Black & Golds can secure a top-half finish this season but one area that might hold them back is the lack of a proven striker. New signing Raul Jiminez has never been prolific - he scored 18 in 80 for Benfica - while Leo Bonatini's goals dried up in the second half of last season.

However, with a midfield pairing of Neves and Moutinho and a solid defence which provides the foundations for their wing-backs to get forward with great results, it would be surprising to see Wolves in relegation trouble come the end of the campaign.

Pre-season form: WLDDW


Everton

After Ronald Koeman's horrible misuse of a £150m war chest in 2017, new Everton boss Marco Silva has been lucky enough to be granted a do-over this summer with the Toffees once again very active in the transfer market, backing the manager whom they had been chasing for six months.

Another £100m has been spent in the attempts to make Everton a Premier League force again. Richarlison from Watford is responsible for nearly half of that outlay at a whopping £50m, but that inflated fee is offset by the free transfer of Bernard and the loan capture of Andre Gomes.

The latter two both arrived at Goodison Park during a busy deadline day in which the Toffees also signed centre-back Yerry Mina from Barcelona. The Colombian scored three goals at the World Cup in Russia but it will be his defending that Everton are counting on, as they conceded 58 goals last season.

Although they placed a respectable eight in the final standings, Everton's season was a mess. Most of their signings flopped, they went through three managers, were constantly hammered by the big boys and finished 12 points worse off than they did in the 2016-17 campaign.

The gap between Everton and the top six has grown year on year since 2014 and, although they were tipped to challenge for Europe off the back of last summer's signings, this squad appears to be far better balanced than the one that Koeman assembled, so there is reason to be ambitious.

As well as the arrivals of three Barcelona players and two Brazilians, the Toffees will be boosted by the return to full fitness of Seamus Coleman, arguably the best right-back in the league before his injury, and the rise of goalkeeper Jordan Pickford after his World Cup heroics with England.

Their friendly opening run of fixtures gives Everton the opportunity to make a strong start to the season, but their pre-season form will be a concern. After beating Austrian minnows ATV Irdning 22-0, the Toffees have gone six games without a win, losing to the likes of Rennes and Blackburn Rovers.

Silva must address Everton's problems on the road as they suffered 10 defeats and picked up only three wins away from home last season, and Molineux is not an easy place for them to start this turn around.

Pre-season form: LLLLDD


Team News

Everton are unlikely to throw any of their deadline-day signings in so soon but Richarlison and Lucas Digne are in line for debuts having worked with the squad for a number of weeks. Jagielka and Michael Keane are the only fit centre-backs while Silva waits on Mina, with Mason Holgate sidelined.

While goalkeeper is not the most physically demanding position, Pickford may be afforded a little more rest time in which case Maarten Stekelenburg will deputise. Morgan Schneiderlin has the opportunity to nail down a spot in midfield while Andre Gomes recovers from an ankle concern.

Wolves are likely to hold several of their own summer signings back, including Traore and Dendonker, but could make three changes to Nuno's regular Championship lineup with Patricio preferred to John Ruddy in goal, and Moutinho and Jonny in for Alfred N'Diaye and Barry Douglas, both of whom have left the club.

Wolves possible starting lineup:
Patricio; Saiss, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Neves, Moutinho, Jonny; Costa, Bonatini, Jota

Everton possible starting lineup:
Stekelenburg; Coleman, Jagielka, Keane, Digne; Gueye, Schneiderlin; Richarlison, Sigurdsson, Walcott, Tosun


Head To Head

Four of the last six meetings between these two sides have ended in a draw, including a goalless stalemate in their most recent encounter at Molineux in 2012.

Everton did win 3-0 in the West Midlands the year before, a team from which Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines are survivors at Everton, but that is their only away win at Wolves since 1981.


We say: Wolves 2-2 Everton

This game could be an opening-weekend show stealer as both teams will be determined to make an impression, and will genuinely feel that three points are there for the taking.

Richarlison and Theo Walcott have the pace to get in behind Wolves' wing-backs and cause them problems but Everton's defence will also be vulnerable, especially if Mina and Pickford are not risked on fitness grounds so there could be goals at both ends.


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