Everton bring their pre-season campaign to a close with a home fixture against Spanish side Real Betis. The Saville based side will be the third consecutive Spanish opponents for the Toffees, who will be looking to end a run of two successive defeats.
Roberto Martinez will be eagerly awaiting his first game in charge of the Blues at Goodison Park and he is sure to receive an excellent reception from the Everton crowd as he takes his seat in the home dug out for the first time. Martinez has been taken aback by the level of support the Blues have received on their travels and although Goodison will be far from full, he will find the Toffees are well supported whatever the occasion.
The Green and Whites of Real Betis are one time champions of Spain, but have endured a mixed time in recent years, moving between the Primera and Secunda divisions in Spain. The club are on an upwards trajectory at present and after promotion two years ago, enjoyed a successful season last year to qualify for the Europa League after a seventh place league finish. Their star player is Ruben Castro, the prolific centre forward has scored more than a goal a game for the Andalusians and was linked with a move to Everton in the January transfer window.
Martinez is likely to name a strong squad for the game as he begins to finalise his plans ahead of the season opener at Carrow Road in just under a weeks time. Tim Howard is expected to be Everton’s number one as the season kicks off and he will return between the sticks after sitting out the final match of the US tour. The defence is relatively settled, with the only decision based on whether Everton go for a 3-4-3 or a 4-3-3 formation. Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines are expected to start the game at full back, with Jagielka and Distin continuing their central defensive partnership. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see John Stones and Bryan Oviedo feature at some point during the afternoon.
In midfield there appears to be just one position up for grabs. Darron Gibson and Marouane Fellaini will sit deep and dictate the play, with one from Leon Osman, Steven Pienaar and Ross Barkley likely to start at the peak of the midfield triangle. Out wide, Kevin Mirallas has been outstanding throughout pre-season and subject to remaining injury free will start of the right. Pienaar may be selected wide left, as might young Spanish star Gerard Deulofeu or Scot Steven Naismith. With a doubt remaining over Pienaar’s fitness, Deulofeu is expected to start the Betis game as he looks to build his stamina ahead of a first season in the English Premier League.
Nikica Jelavic appears to have won the race to start the season at the pinnacle of the Blues attack, but after picking up a dead leg against Valencia, the Croatian may start this match from the bench. Arouna Kone will be keen to get a first taste of Goodison as an Evertonian and Victor Anichebe will be eager to impress his new boss.
Squad: Howard, Joel; Coleman, Stones, Baines, Oviedo, Jagielka, Distin, Heitinga, Duffy; Gibson, Fellaini, Osman, Barkley, Pienaar, Naismith, Mirallas, Deulofeu; Jelavic, Kone, Anichebe.