Team news, stats and prediction ahead of Everton vs Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).
James Rodriguez is among five Everton players who are unavailable for Saturday’s Premier League opener against Southampton as they are isolating.
While Rafael Benitez, for whom the Goodison Park clash will be his first competitive match as Toffees boss, has not named all the players in the quintet, he did confirm Rodriguez was one of them.
Benitez will be able to call upon Dominic Calvert-Lewin – absent from last week’s friendly against Manchester United due to a knock – and Olympic gold-medallist Richarlison.
The signings brought in so far by the club over the summer are Demarai Gray, Andros Townsend and Asmir Begovic.
Southampton expect to have midfielder James Ward-Prowse available for the trip to Merseyside.
Ward-Prose has returned to training after carrying a knee problem, so should be involved, but Will Smallbone (knee) continues his own long-term recovery.
Defender Jannik Vestergaard is on the verge of a move to Leicester, but summer recruits Romain Perraud, Valentino Livramento, forward Adam Armstrong and Armando Broja could all be in line for a debut.
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Follow Everton vs Southampton in our dedicated live match blog. Highlights will also be published on the Sky Sports digital platforms and the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel at 5.15pm.
- Everton have lost just one of their 22 Premier League home games against Southampton (W15 D6), remaining unbeaten in their last 16 against them at Goodison Park since a 0-2 loss in November 1997.
- Southampton have kept just one clean sheet in their last nine league meetings with Everton (W3 D2 L4), doing so in a 2-0 home victory last season.
- Everton haven’t lost their opening match in any of the last nine Premier League campaigns (W3 D6) since a 0-1 loss against QPR in 2011-12. Four of the Toffees’ six draws on MD1 since then have been 2-2.
- Southampton have won their opening fixture in just one of their last 14 Premier League campaigns (D7 L6), beating West Bromwich Albion 1-0 in 2013-14. Saints have the lowest win rate in opening games of all Premier League sides to play in at least 10 campaigns (9% – won 2/22).
- Everton scored 12 goals in their first four Premier League home games last season, at a rate of three-per-game. However, the Toffees proceeded to net just a further 12 in their subsequent 15 at Goodison Park (0.8 per game).
Opposing goals strikes me as the profitable play in this one. If Dominic Calvert-Lewin is ruled out as expected with a toe injury and Richarlison is not quite ready to start following his exertions with Brazil at the Olympics, then it’s hard to foresee who is going to take the chances for Everton. Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison were responsible for over half of their entire goal output last season. Southampton have lost one of the best finishers in the division in Danny Ings, too. It could be a long afternoon.
I can’t imagine that confidence will be flowing in either camp for the season opener. Ralph Hasenhuttl has talked about a change of style amid his desire to shore up his leaky defense, which is never a good sign from a manager who revolves his normal demands around highly energetic and entertaining football. Meanwhile, Rafa Benitez will be hunting a clean sheet in typical Benitez fashion on his first outing as Everton boss.
I’ve backed downward-trending Southampton for relegation this season. A low-scoring home win gets my vote here.
SCORE PREDICTION: 1-0
BETTING ANGLE: Under 1.5 goals (5/2 with Sky Bet)
The Premier League is back! New signings, new teams, old rivalries resumed and fresh hope, all to the sweet sound of full stadiums. Kate Burlaga is joined by Nick Wright and Gerard Brand to preview another nine months of drama in the top flight.
Part 1: Are City still the side to beat? And who will challenge them? Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool assessed
Part 2: Will the north London gloom lift? Leicester in focus and surprise package: Leeds, Aston Villa and Everton tipped
Part 3: How will the promoted trio Brentford, Watford and Norwich fare? Plus: New managers assessed, and can West Ham deal with European distraction?