It is the question on every Evertonian’s lips: is this the year when Everton finally get off to a good start to the season?
Almost as regular as clockwork, Everton’s nine-month Premier League campaign has been all too predictable. A bad start – losing to newly-promoted teams, struggling to score goals, contending with a series of injuries – is followed by a reasonable turn of the year and then come February onwards, the Toffees become one of the form teams in the country, only to miss out on the top six.
The same thing is said each pre-season: if Everton can start the new season like they finished the old one, they have a real chance of mixing it at the top end of the table with the big boys. And then it never happens and the cycle starts again.
So can David Moyes break the habit of a lifetime and give Everton a good platform to go into the second half of the year with? Well, things look better than they normally do: injuries are at a premium, Moyes has actually recruited new players (always a struggle given the finances at Goodison) in the form of Rangers’ Steven Naismith and former Blue Steven Pienaar from Tottenham and, more crucially, in Nikica Jelavic, Everton finally have a striker that can get 15 to 20 league goals.
Add to that the fact the squad is settled (it doesn’t appear like Everton are going to lose any of their main players, although rumours of Manchester United’s interest in Leighton Baines refuse to go away) and the ingredients are there for Everton to get off to a good start
The next step in the Blues’ pre-season preparations takes place on Wednesday when they face AEK Athens in a testimonial match for Tony Hibbert (perhaps the most unassuming player in Premier League history) at Goodison Park. Everton are priced at 13/50 to mark the occasion with a victory, with the Greek side outsiders at 17/2 and the draw available at 15/4.
Quite how AEK Athens were chosen as the opponents to mark ten years of Tony Hibbert is anyone’s guess, but it was perhaps because they would make such obliging visitors.
Coach Vangelis Vlachos is an ex-player who is brand new to the job and the first thing he will have to do is sort out Athens’ away form. AEK haven’t won in 11 away games, losing eight and failing to score in seven of them. You have to go back to January to find the last win on their travels and you can be sure there isn’t going to be one at Goodison.
But Everton are a bit short to take full advantage, so instead take the 7/10 that only one team or neither team scores in the match. Moyes was unhappy with Everton’s performance in the 2-0 defeat to Blackpool on Sunday and will have his charges fired up with only ten days until the Premier League kicks off and I’m sure there will be a response at home. I don’t see AEK putting up much of a fight and the Toffees can give Hibbert a night to remember with victory.
New customers can register here to claim a free £20 bet or click here to see all our Premier League odds.
Follow us on Twitter @bwin