Everton vs Southampton: Benitez can win over sceptics

Everton vs Southampton: Benitez can win over sceptics

Kick-off: 1500, 14/08/2021

Stadium: Goodison Park

Everton begin a new era at Goodison Park as Rafael Benitez takes charge of his first match against Southampton on the opening weekend of the Premier League campaign.

The former Liverpool boss has been tasked with replacing Carlo Ancelotti, who returned to Real Madrid, as the Toffees target European football after just missing out last season.

They only won six games at Goodison Park but are fancied to improve with supporters back in the ground and a home win at 17/20 is our opening Everton vs Southampton prediction.

A Look At Everton’s Betting Odds

It will be interesting to see how Everton fans take to their rivals’ former manager after voicing concerns when the Spaniard was rumoured to be in line to replace Ancelotti at the helm.

The Toffees finished 10th last season after starting the campaign with seven straight victories in all competitions to briefly sit at the summit of the Premier League before eventually sliding down the table.

It will have hurt the Everton fans after a perfect start and will be even more painful after Ancelotti, who was adamant he wanted to lead the club into their new stadium, left for Madrid.

Comings and goings on the playing side have been minor, with Andros Townsend, Demarai Gray and Asmir Begovic only adding strength in depth.

The future of James Rodriguez is uncertain about whether the playmaker will also return to Real but Benitez has inherited a strong squad and will want to get off to a quick start.

And the omens are there for the hosts. In head-to-head Premier League fixtures, the home side have lost only three of the last 23 meetings between these teams, stretching back to April 2002.

Five of the last six matches have also seen more goals scored in the first half than the second period, which is priced at 2/1 to happen once again in the Everton vs Southampton odds.

Playmaker Rodriguez (isolation) is among five Everton players who are unavailable. Strikers Dominic Calvert-Lewin – absent from last week’s friendly against Manchester United due to a knock – and Olympic gold-medallist Richarlison are available.

A Look At Southampton’s Betting Odds

Southampton briefly sat at the top of the Premier League table last November but found themselves in relegation trouble towards the back end of the campaign before finishing in 15th place.

Injuries were a big factor in their downfall, with key men such as Danny Ings and Oriol Romeu missing chunks of the second half of the season.

Losing Ings to Aston Villa was a big blow, but teenage Albania forward Armando Broja joins on a season-long loan from Chelsea after catching the eye in pre-season friendlies.

The 19-year-old spent last season on loan at Dutch side Vitesse, scoring 11 goals in 34 appearances as they finished fourth in the Eredivisie.

Ralph Hasenhuttl said: “He is young, but he comes now with a full season of experience in senior football with a good team, and he brings a lot of qualities that can help us.

“He is a strong, quick player with a good instinct and this makes him a good fit for the way we like to play.

“I know how highly regarded he is by Chelsea and I think this will be a good place for him to continue his own development as well.”

Saints have also brought in Blackburn striker Adam Armstrong as they try and replace the goals scored by Ings.

The return of fans will be an interesting factor in the 2021-22 campaign after the coronavirus pandemic restricted the league to few opportunities for supporters to return to stadia.

Southampton picked up only 16 points on their travels and will want to get off to a fast start to alleviate any lingering doubts over Hasenhuttl, who has suffered two 9-0 defeats during his tenure.

However, Benitez and Hasenhuttl are both defensively-minded coaches who make their teams hard to beat.

With the last three encounters yielding two goals or fewer, it looks worth the extra risk to back a home win and under 2.5 goals at 10/3 to wrap up our Everton vs Southampton betting tips.

Southampton expect to have James Ward-Prowse (knee) available, but fellow midfielder Will Smallbone (knee) continues his own long-term recovery. Defender Jannik Vestergaard has moved to Leicester.

Additional stats

Last result:

Man City 5-0 EVERTON

West Ham 3-0 SOUTHAMPTON

Head-to-head: Everton 1-0 Southampton, Southampton 2-0 Everton, Everton 1-1 Southampton, Southampton 1-2 Everton, Southampton 2-1 Everton.

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