Everton v Stoke City
Wayne Rooney is poised for his second Everton Premier League 'debut' – 15 years after the Blues’ Academy graduate made his bow for the Club in a 2-2 draw with Tottenham on August 17, 2002.
Ronald Koeman has reported a clean bill of health for his squad, with the exception of long-term absentees Seamus Coleman, Yannick Bolasie and Ramiro Funes Mori.
James McCarthy is back training with Koeman’s first-team group following a hamstring problem but the visit of Stoke will come too soon for the Republic of Ireland international to return to the fold.
McCarthy’s fellow midfielder Muhamed Besic has featured in pre-season as he steps up his recovery from the serious knee injury he sustained 12 months ago.
There could be debuts against Stoke for a further five new boys in addition to Rooney.
Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and centre-back Michael Keane are both expected to start against Mark Hughes’ men.
The English duo could be joined on the teamsheet by Dutch international attacker Davy Klaassen, Sandro Ramirez, who was part of the Spain side that reached the final of this summer’s European Under-21 Championship, and former Southampton defender Cuco Martina.
There is nothing substantial to go on – but the Blues completed their pre-season campaign without being beaten.
Moreover, Koeman’s side had the chance to properly blow away the cobwebs with two Europa League games against MFK Ruzomberok.
Everton beat the Slovaks home and away – 1-0 in both instances – to add to friendly victories over Kenyan side Gor Mahia and Dutch Eredivisie team FC Twente.
The Toffees’ lone Goodison warm-up game – against Sevilla– finished all square, the same outcome as Everton’s meeting with Genk last month.
Going back to last term, the Blues’ home form in the second half of the campaign was exceptional. Everton won nine of their final 10 matches at Goodison – with only Premier League champions Chelsea leaving the ground with anything to show for their efforts this calendar year.
Everton’s victory over Stoke last August represented Koeman’s first home Premier League success in charge of the Club.
The Blues’ goal, scored six minutes after half-time, arrived in curious circumstances. Referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot after Ashley Williams and Potters’ defender Phil Bardsley tangled in the box.
Leighton Baines’s resultant penalty was shoved onto the post by Shay Given, only for the ball to be redirected into the net by the back of the luckless goalkeeper’s head.
The game also marked Yannick Bolasie’s first Premier League start in a Toffees shirt and left Koeman demanding his team be more “clinical” in their opponents’ penalty area.
Everton and Stoke’s most recent meeting was at the bet365 Stadium in February, when Potters’ skipper Ryan Shawcross turned Seamus Coleman’s delivery into his own net to earn the Blues a point, after Peter Crouch’s close-range finish had given the hosts’ a seventh-minute lead.
ONE TO WATCH: XHERDAN SHAQIRI
The Swiss’ form has been something of a hit and miss affair since Stoke achieved a coup by luring him from Inter Milan two years ago.
When he’s a hit, though… watch out. Everton know this to their cost, after Shaqiri scored twice in the Potters’ 4-3 win at Goodison in December 2015.
The second of those efforts was a sublime first-time finish over the head of Tim Howard, after his marauding run had been exquisitely picked out by another of Stoke’s ball players, Bojan Krkic.
The 25-year-old Shaqiri, twice a Bundesliga winner with Bayern Munich, is arguably the standard bearer for the transformation Mark Hughes is steadily trying to oversee at the Staffordshire club, with Stoke adding a degree of panache to their formerly robust approach.
Darren Fletcher, newly arrived at Stoke from West Bromwich and a long-time servant of Manchester United, likened Shaqiri to Lionel Messi after a few weeks spent training with the powerful forward.
He needs containing, then!
MAN IN THE MIDDLE: NEIL SWARBRICK
Lancastrian Swarbrick last officiated the Blues in April’s 1-1 draw at Manchester United. He sent off Ashley Williams after awarding the home team a penalty deep into stoppage time when the Everton defender handled on the line.
Swarbrick was also the man in the middle when the Toffees won their opening game on the road last season – a 2-1 victory at West Bromwich.
The red card he showed Williams was the only time the 47-year-old dismissed a player in 24 Premier League matches in the 2016-17 campaign.
He awarded five penalties – including the one scored by Zlatan Ibrahimovic against the Blues – and brandished 89 yellow cards.
As always, there will be free live audio commentary of Sunday’s contest here on evertonfc.com.
In addition to our live commentary, look out for our live blog which will bring you updates, imagery, video and team news from Goodison. Head to the match centre, the official App or the evertonfc.com homepage on matchday to find it.