Former Everton and Wolverhampton Wanderers defender Derek Mountfield says the Blues will have to “prepare for a fight” when they visit Molineux on the opening day of the new season.
The Toffees will begin their 2018/19 Premier League campaign with a trip to the Black Country to face Wolves, who lifted the Championship title back in May.
Mountfield, who enjoyed a three-year spell at Wanderers between 1991-1994 after signing from Aston Villa, was a keen observer as Nuno Espirito Santo oversaw their rise to the Premier League with a dominating campaign in the second tier.
The Portuguese signed a number of his countryman last summer – with talented youngster Ruben Neves catching the eye in the middle of the park and forwards Ivan Cavaleiro and Hélder Costa adding a consistent goal threat – but what struck Mountfield in particular was the togetherness and understanding within the Wolves ranks.
“I watched them a couple of times and they play some really impressive football,” said Mountfield, who won two league titles, the FA Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup with the Blues during the trophy-laden 1980s. “They have a very positive, forthright manager in Santo who demands the best and his players respect that and perform for him.
“They have got some very good players and every member of the squad has bought into the system the manager wants to play. Some of the talent they added were outstanding last season. They have got the nucleus of a good group of players. With one or two additions over the summer, you don’t know how well they could do.
“The lad Neves, who they signed from Porto, looks outstanding. He’s a young midfielder who came in and impressed. He can really run the game, as he did for much of last season.
“They have a couple of lads up front who have a bit of quality and then there is John Ruddy in goal who has had a bit of a renaissance at Wolves.
“But what I really liked about them was that everyone understood what they have to do. I watched them play away at Manchester City in the Carabao Cup and Nuno made nine changes. You wouldn’t have known – each one of those players knew exactly what they had to do.
“You can see what the manager has done. He must work on their style of play, formations and what he wants from them day after day after day. The work ethic and the ethos that he has instilled really impressed me. You don’t see that in a lot of teams. Fulham were similar and perhaps we could see them and Wolves as the two surprise packages this season.”
Mountfield, who made 91 appearances for Wolves after leaving Villa Park for £150,000, expects a raucous atmosphere at Molineux with the club now back in the top flight after a five-year absence.
But the former Blues defender has seen plenty to excite him at Everton, with Marcel Brands and Marco Silva arriving at the Club as Director of Football and manager respectively.
Mountfield is predicting an “interesting start to the season” between the sides but hopes Everton can begin as they mean to go on.
“Molineux will be rocking that day,” he added. “The Wolves fans will definitely be up for it because they have been away from the top flight for a few years and now they are back after a phenomenal season last year.
“It will be a difficult season for them but having the first game at home will set them up nicely.
“But we are Everton. We have got to go to Molineux and be on the front foot. We will have to go there prepared for a fight but also to go and take the game to Wolves and to win. But anyone who goes to Molineux next season will be in for a tough game.
“You want to start with a win. We have a good group of players at Everton. I am hoping Marco can come in with fresh ideas and hit the ground running.”