Leighton Baines is set to make his 300th Premier League
With the transfer window out the way and Ronald Koeman now cognisant of what he has to work with until January at least, Everton's Premier League programme resumes this weekend with the visit to Goodison Park of Tottenham Hotspur.
It's the third match in a stretch of particularly difficult assignments early in the league season that has pit the Blues against top-six opposition in four of their five opening games. Trips to Atalanta and Manchester United follow which would make a home win against one of the contenders for the title a big one in terms of morale.
It promises to be one of Everton's toughest home games of the campaign, however, one that should see Leighton Baines reach 300 Premier League
appearances starts for the club. The Blues haven't registered a win over this weekend's opponents home or away for five years and Tottenham under Mauricio Pochettino are notoriously good travellers. Only champions Chelsea lost fewer on the road than last season and not since Nikica Jelavic's dramatic stoppage time winner capped a thrilling late comeback by David Moyes's team in 2012-13 have Spurs lost at Goodison Park.
Among the many dimensions to Saturday's encounter, two stick out like sore thumbs from Everton's perspective and both could affect them in the most important area of the pitch — up front.
The first is the glaring lack of an experienced attacking signing to replace Romelu Lukaku before last week's transfer deadline, a failing that could dog the club until the next window opens in four months' time. It means there will be a heavy reliance on the raw but increasingly influential Dominic Calvert-Lewin and newcomer Sandro Ramirez, a hope that Kevin Mirallas can somehow get his head right to work his way back into the side and to some hitherto elusive consistency, and the need for experience and leadership from Wayne Rooney.
Unfortunately, Rooney could be the second problematic facet to the game in that so much focus will be on his performance given his off-the-field drink-driving transgression and very public marital strife. The veteran has spent muc of his career under media scrutiny so the chances are he will be able to shrug it off and keep his mind on the task at hand but it's an unwanted distraction.
On a more positive note, new signing Nikola Vlasic will be part of the matchday squad for the first time since his arrival from Hajduk Split, most likely taking Mirallas's now customary spot on the bench. The Croatian could, indeed, offer a like-for-like replacement for the erratic Belgian and might be a surprise package this term despite his relatively tender years.
Sandro, meanwhile, is fit and feeling 100% along with Jordan Pickford and Morgan Schneiderlin will return to the side after missing the defeat at Chelsea through suspension. The Frenchman is likely to line up alongside Idrissa Gueye, with Koeman possibly going with a back five again with Mason Holgate in the right wingback role once more.
Tottenham have some injury problems to contend with as Erik Lamela, Georges-Kévin Nkoudou, Danny Rose and Victor Wanyama are all ruled out but Pochettino is blessed with a big enough squad to absorb any of those losses, with perhaps Rose being their biggest loss.
New signing Serge Aurier might not be involved but deadline-day buy Fernando Llorente could play, lining up this time against his old partner in goals at Swansea, Gylfi Sigurdsson, who is set to make his first appearance at Goodison Park as an Everton player.
With the Toffees having home advantage but a forward line struggling to make chances and with just two league goals so far from three games, this one is shaping up to be a tight affair dominated by two strong defences. Everton's was breached twice at Stamford Bridge before the international break but came very close to keeping Manchester City's much-vaunted attack at bay on their patch before that which bodes well when it comes to containing the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli.
Evertonian eyes will be on what, if any, tactical or formational adjustments Koeman makes given that he was not able to procure the type of No.9 striker he was after, while Sigurdsson will, perhaps, command even more attention as one of the most important components in the team.
Kick-off: 3pm, Saturday, 9 September, 2017
Referee: Graham Scott
Last Time: Everton 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Holgate, Keane, Williams, Jagielka, Baines, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Sigurdsson, Rooney, Calvert-Lewin