Despite avoiding relegation by the skin of their teeth last term, the Toffees have done almost nothing to renew fans’ damaged confidence in the summer.
The signings of ageing Ashley Young, out-of-sorts Arnaut Danjuma and inexperienced Youssef Chermiti will unlikely help Sean Dyche steer his downtrodden side away from the lower reaches.
Everton have been flirting with the drop for too long, finishing 16th or worse in the last two seasons, suggesting 2023/24 could be a fateful campaign for the Merseyside underachievers.
Visiting Fulham know a thing or two about dropping to the Championship, only to bounce back the following year, having alternated between England’s top-two divisions six years in a row.
However, Marco Silva’s men bucked that unwanted trend last season, defying expectations to secure a first top-half finish since 2011/12 after showing shy European ambitions in the early stages.
After fending off a genuine interest from Saudi Arabia in Aleksandar Mitrovic and bringing in Raul Jimenez, the Cottagers ought to take the field in high spirits despite an indifferent pre-season form (W2, L2).
Fulham cannot take anything for granted, even though Everton’s long-term issues potentially put them in the driver’s seat to get their 2023/24 campaign off to a flyer.
Abdoulaye Doucoure’s memorable winner against Bournemouth in last season’s nerve-shredding finale earned him a status of a club legend and extended Everton’s historic Premier League stay.
Seventy-six days after that iconic victory, the Toffees hope to embark on a more fruitful campaign following a morale-boosting five-game unbeaten pre-season run (W4, D1).
Goodison had been a fortress against Fulham for years, with Everton mustering a history-defining 22-game winning home league streak against the Cottagers between 1961 and 2018.
Unfortunately for Dyche, their visitors have freed themselves from the psychological shackles, racking up back-to-back two-goal margin wins on Merseyside after that barren run.
Silva’s side toppled Everton 3-1 in this corresponding fixture in April to make it three consecutive Premier League H2Hs without losing (W2, D1).
But after a mixed pre-season and unpleasant off-field battles to keep hold of their star player Mitrovic and manager Silva, Fulham could be in for another underwhelming Premier League opener.
It has been ten years since the Cottagers last kicked things off in the top flight with a win, not to mention a poor haul of one triumph in their last nine curtain-raising fixtures (D4, L4), all divisions included.
Everton captain Seamus Coleman won’t be part of Dyche’s matchday squad due to a knee injury, with the same going for Dwight McNeil (ankle) and Dele Alli (muscle).
Danjuma’s availability remains questionable, while James Tarkowski could start on the bench after limping off the field in last weekend’s 1-0 win over Sporting CP.
As for Fulham, Joao Palhinha will stay home for this clash with a shoulder injury, leaving long-serving skipper Tom Cairney as the only doubt in the travelling camp.
Top summer signing Calvin Bassey has a decent chance to start next to vice-captain Tim Team at the heart of Silva’s defence after Tosin Adarabioyo delivered a mixed bag of performance in pre-season.
Everton potential starting line-up:
(4-4-1-1): Jordan Pickford; Nathan Patterson, Michael Keane, Mason Holgate, Ashley Young; James Garner, Idrissa Gueye, Amadou Onana, Abdoulaye Doucoure; Alex Iwobi; Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Fulham potential starting line-up:
(4-2-3-1): Bernd Leno; Kenny Tete, Tim Ream, Calvin Bassey, Antonee Robinson; Harrison Reed, Sasa Lukic; Bobby Decordova-Reid, Andreas Pereira, Willian; Raul Jimenez.
We Say: Everton 0-0 Fulham
Though just one of Everton’s last ten meetings with Fulham has ended as a draw, we believe this could be the least exciting matchday-one contest in the Premier League.
Dyche’s defensive-minded football should encounter no resilience from a Mitrovic-less Cottagers side, which promises a cagey, low-scoring fixture.
One goal could decide this game, but it’s hard to tell who can put the ball in the net.
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