Rafa Benitez makes his bow as Everton manager as the Toffees host Southampton in their opening match of 2021-22 Premier League season.
Everton will be looking to build on their tenth-placed finish of last season as Rafa Benitez replaces Carlo Ancelotti, whereas Southampton look to rebuild after a disappointing 15th placed finish with just five league wins in 2021.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin is a doubt for Everton after sitting out their final pre-season friendly with a toe injury.
Andre Gomes, Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Moise Kean are doubts with various knocks whilst Richarlison is unlikely to feature, having just resumed training following Olympics success with Brazil and voluntarily forfeiting a deserved holiday.
Jarrad Branthwaite (ankle),
Southampton remain without Sam McQueen and Will Smallbone after the pair failed to recover from knee injuries during the summer break.
Summer signing, Adam Armstrong could make his Saints debut after joining from Blackburn Rovers.
- Everton are unbeaten in three of their last five league meetings against Southampton (W2, D1, L2).
- Southampton have failed to win any of their last 16 league trips to Goodison Park (D5, L11), with four of five draws finishing 1-1.
- The home team in both fixtures last season took victory with clean sheets – Everton won 1-0 at Goodison Park in March 2021 and Southampton were 2-0 winners at St Mary’s in October 2020.
- Everton are unbeaten in their last nine opening matches in a new season (W3, D6).
- Southampton are winless in their last five opening weekend fixtures (D3, L2), plus have failed to score in their first match in each of last four seasons.
Having lost Ancelotti to Real Madrid, Everton have certainly taken a bold gamble in appointing Benitez given how defensive he played when in charge of Newcastle, yet the Spaniard has so far looked to improve his attack and goalkeeping this summer which suggests that we could see an attacking style here.
Southampton meanwhile need to reset themselves in order to ensure that their woes of 2021 so far doesn’t spill over into this season, yet they have lost a proven goalscorer in Danny Ings so need Armstrong to start firing quickly and others to step up if they’re to push for a top ten finish.
Now looking at this match specifically, I can see a close contest coming between two solid teams but Everton have a strong opening weekend record, which should give them the edge mentally on top of a new manager and improved attacking style.
Prediction: Everton 1-0 Southampton
Result: Everton 3-1 Southampton