Two clubs who have spent big in a bid to improve on last season meet when Manchester City host Everton at the Etihad Stadium on Monday (20:00 BST, live on Sky Sports).
Man City have laid out well over £200 million on new signings so far this summer and still seem set to add to that total with at least one more new arrival.
The signings of Benjamin Mendy, Danilo and Kyle Walker have provided coach Pep Guardiola with three athletic full-backs capable of covering far more ground than the ageing options he shuffled last season. Bernardo Silva has come in from Monaco to join the sheaf of slippery schemers already on the club’s books, while in goal, Claudio Bravo has been replaced by Ederson, from whom even an average performance level would improve things.
On paper, Man City look to have the strongest squad in the Premier League, even if they are a little top heavy. The addition of a further option in the centre of defence, with West Brom’s Johnny Evans heavily linked, would fill out the group.
With the deficiencies of last season’s squad now rectified, Guardiola will know that anything less than a serious challenge for the league title and a strong run in the Champions League will be deemed a failure. The underlying statistics suggested City were fundamentally the league’s best side last season. This year they must prove it.
Guardiola’s men certainly got off to a solid start with a 2-0 win away to Brighton last weekend. They dominated possession, created good opportunities and restricted their hosts to no more than a couple of half-chances. Goals from Sergio Aguero, who linked well as part of a fluid front two with Gabriel Jesus, and an own goal from Lewis Dunk secured the victory.
Everton also began the campaign with three points thanks to a goal from the returning Wayne Rooney in an otherwise uneventful 1-0 win at home to Stoke. That was followed by a 2-0 win over Hadjuk Split on Thursday in the final Europa League qualifying round, where a strong first-half performance was followed by a less convincing display after the break.
Man City v Everton Betting Odds from Bet365
1/3 Man City
Ronald Koeman will, however, be content with two wins and a couple of clean sheets at the start of a season in which Everton will hope to both close the gap to the top six and compete for domestic and European silverware. The Dutchman steered them to a solid seventh in his first campaign at the helm but heavy investment this summer has raised expectations. Everton have spent upwards of £130 million and are still keen on bringing in another striker.
Jordan Pickford is certainly a step up from last season’s goalkeeping options, while Michael Keane should improve the defensive unit. Midfielders Davy Klaassen and Glyfi Sigurdsson both seem overpriced and it remains to be seen what sort of impact they can have. Up front, Sandro Ramirez has plenty of promise and was a no brainer given his low buyout clause, while Rooney has rejoined his boyhood club on a free transfer from Manchester United.
Rooney returned because he felt he still had something to prove. He could have sought a retirement payday elsewhere, but he didn’t want his career to simply fade away. He wanted a challenge, and while he is not the same force of nature he was in his early appearances as a teenager, his experience and vision of play can certainly be beneficial if correctly utilised.
Everton have improved squad depth and look well placed to consolidate their position as the best of the rest outside of the top six, but there is not a game-changer amongst their signings that suggests they will be capable of more, particularly without the 25 goals that Romelu Lukaku provided last time out. Indeed, the identity of his replacement will do much to determine whether a step forward is possible.
Everton have held Man City at the Etihad in each of the last two seasons but it is seven years since they last defeated them there. City have greater quality throughout their squad this time around and can be expected to secure the three points in what is nevertheless likely to be a relatively tight match.