Arsenal travel to Everton on Saturday evening for the season’s first game between two sides touted to be at least support acts in the Premier League title drama.
Optimism that has been missing from recent campaigns is rife at the Emirates following their summer business and Community Shield victory over Manchester City.
They were underwhelming in their 2-1 opening-day win over Crystal Palace last weekend, with Aaron Ramsey striking in injury time to complete a comeback which had been started by Laurent Koscielny’s header.
However, Arsene Wenger is open to adding to his squad and still has his trio of World Cup-winning Germans and the injured Theo Walcott to welcome back into the fold as the season progresses.
Everton may not yet be championship material, but their name is being mentioned alongside the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City when managers of the elite clubs discuss a seven-team title race.
Finishing in the top four is the primary aim for the Toffees, and they came within seven points of doing so in Roberto Martinez’s debut campaign, only for their opponents this weekend to pip them to the post.
Their Champions League aspirations have been dealt a blow by the news that England international Ross Barkley could miss up to five months with a knee ligament injury sustained in training.
Aiden McGeady and Steven Naismith, both of whom were fringe players last season, proved that the Merseysiders have depth in attacking midfield positions by scoring in their 2-2 draw with Leicester City.
A late goal from Chris Wood denied them victory and, although Martinez admitted that the result felt like two points were thrown away, he is unlikely to make major changes for the Goodison Park encounter.
Seamus Coleman should be recalled at right-back in place of John Stones, but another who was used as a substitute against the Foxes, Kevin Mirallas, may have to make do with a place on the bench again as he works his way back to full fitness after his exploits with Belgium at the World Cup.
Bryan Oviedo, Darron Gibson and Arouna Kone remain sidelined, while summer signings Muhamed Besic and Christian Atsu will probably have to wait at least another week before making their debut.
Arsenal have Ramsey available despite his red card in their 0-0 Champions League qualifying first-leg draw with Beskitas on Tuesday, but Wenger does have a long list of potential absentees to worry about.
Kieran Gibbs has joined Walcott, David Ospina and Serge Gnabry in the treatment room, captain Mikel Arteta is a doubt to face his former club and Yaya Sanogo may miss out with a hamstring strain.
That means that Olivier Giroud is likely to get the nod up front. Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker are not expected to return until next weekend but could be included if Wenger is short on fit bodies.
Everton are unbeaten in four Premier League games against Arsenal and won 3-0 at Goodison last season.
Possible starting lineups
Everton: Howard; Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; McCarthy, Barry; McGeady, Naismith, Pienaar; Lukaku
Arsenal: Szczesny; Debuchy, Chambers, Koscielny, Monreal; Arteta, Ramsey; Cazorla, Wilshere, Sanchez; Giroud
Sports Mole says:
Looking at all these analysis, I am predicting 1-0, home win at the end of the match.
At the time of this post, NaijaBet is tipping Arsenal to win at over 200% and also Everton to win at slightly over 200% but to end draw is currently at over 300%. This means N1,000 will earn you N3,000 if they end up in draw.
Current Odd : 2.68 3.17 2.43