Koeman: Rooney To Start

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Ronald Koeman has revealed Wayne Rooney will start in his league homecoming at Goodison Park on Saturday against Stoke City.

The summer signing did make his ‘second debut’ in the home leg of the Europa League third round qualifying tie with MFK Ruzomberok last month, but the Grand Old Lady is sold out this weekend as Evertonians welcome back the Academy graduate for his first Everton league match for 13 years.

Koeman says he can "smell and feel" the motivation of his squad for the Premier League opener, and hopes the European matches can help give the Blues the edge.

“Wayne is back and he is showing his quality to the players,” the Blues boss told evertontv. “He is an important player and he is one of the team that will start this Saturday.

“We know at home that we have that fantastic support and hopefully we can get a good win this Saturday. It is always better to start at home than away. I think we have a little advantage having played two important games in Europa League qualifying.

“Everybody is looking forward to the start of the Premier League and is ready.”

Koeman is pleased with the manner in which Everton have progressed through pre-season. As well as improving their fitness, the Toffees were unbeaten in matches against Gor Mahia, Twente, Genk and Sevilla.

But the manager has seen a change this week ahead of the visit of Stoke and is looking forward to playing for points on Saturday.

“You have pre-season where it is not about winning or losing, it is all about getting in the best physical way,” he added. “The players are fit and are close to 100 per cent. Now it is about starting the season in the best possible way and playing for points.

“It really starts this weekend and everyone is looking forward to it. You smell and feel the motivation of the players to start this Saturday. That is a good signal for everybody.”

Everton will be missing a number of players against Mark Hughes’ side, with Koeman confirming the game has come too soon for Ross Barkley and James McCarthy.

“We still have three players out on long-term injuries in Seamus Coleman, Yannick Bolasie and Ramiro Funes Mori, but they are doing well.

“Ross and James are back in training but they are still not available for the weekend. Maybe after that, yes. The rest are ready to start.” 

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