Everton weren’t entirely convincing in their 1-0 win away at MFK Ruzomberok in midweek, but got the job done and moved on into the playoff round of the Europa League. They take on La Liga side Sevilla on Sunday at Goodison Park in the last friendly of the offseason with the Premier League season opener looming on Saturday.
The match will also be used to launch the stunning throwback uniforms that will commemorate Goodison Park’s 125th year of existence. The players will be wearing the same design of kit that was worn by legendary striker Dixie Dean, and the replicas and associated merchandise are also available for pre-order from the club store.
Five-time Europa League winners (including three in a row before last year) Sevilla are anything but a preseason pushover. Los Rojiblancos finished fourth in the competitive La Liga last season and will play in the qualifying round of the Champions League this season.
They have had an up-and-down offseason so far, winning one and losing one on a tour of Japan, before beating Arsenal at the Emirates last weekend. The Everton game comes just a day after Sevilla lost 2-0 away at Southampton.
The Spanish club has a deep squad with names familiar to many football fans - Ever Banega is a player who has been linked with the Blues multiple times, as is defender Simon Kjaer. Former Manchester City players Jesus Navas and Nolito are also now at Sevilla while one-time Stoke City player of the year Steven N’Zonzi also plies his trade with the Spaniards.
Ramiro Funes Mori and Ross Barkley continue to be out after recent surgeries, while Yannick Bolasie and Seamus Coleman are not expected back this calendar year.
Koeman did not hold a pre-match press conference ahead of this game, but will likely use a lot of the faces that played on Thursday as he attempts to get the squad used to the Thursday-Sunday routine of the Europa League and Premier League calendar congestion.
Projected Starting XI
Koeman tried out a new formation for this season with a 3-5-2 on Thursday in Slovakia. Against an equally-matched opponent on Sunday, the Blues could likely go back to his favoured 4-3-3.
Pickford; Baines, Williams, Keane, Martina; Schneiderlin, Gueye, Klaassen; Mirallas, Rooney, Sandro
The Final Word
Everton will not find it easy going against Sevilla, and this should prove a perfect way to end the preseason and get the team ready for the upcoming Premier League season.
The Blues have looked rusty at times but the potential has been visible for all to see, especially with the energy from new signings Sandro Ramirez, Davy Klaassen and Michael Keane.
I’ll predict a 2-2 draw with both teams ringing in the changes in the second half to give the entire squad a run out.