I can see through a window out into Liverpool city centre as I start this preview. It’s pissing down.
The forecast for the rest of the week? Rain, cloud and a ton of wind. Grim.
There was a stiff breeze at Selhurst Park on Saturday too, as I watched Everton toil to a 0-0 draw against Crystal Palace with an XI that contained no new signings.
All these factors have meant the tropes you so often associate with the start of a new season have been absent.
There’s been no sun and only a glimpse of new faces in Everton colours; the Toffees even had to dig out one of last season’s kits for their opener, as it was deemed their new coral away kit would clash with Palace’s home jersey.
Despite all that, Evertonians are excited to get back to Goodison Park on Saturday, when Watford make the trip up to Merseyside.
The Toffees built an encouraging head of steam towards the end of last season and much of that impetus can be attributed to the manner in which they performed in front of their own supporters in 2019.
The Merseyside derby in March was the catalyst for that strong end to the campaign. On that night, Goodison was abuzz with anger and anxiousness before the game, largely because Liverpool arrived with their Premier League title destiny in their own hands. The 0-0 draw meant the Reds surrendered that initiative to Manchester City.
And while some Blues will be quick to remind their red neighbours that they “lost the league at Goodison Park”, the fixture that evening was a reminder of what type of influence Goodison can have when it’s at its rowdy best.
In the matches that followed, there was a unison between the supporters and players that’s been scarce since the 2013-14 season.
The players responded in turn, with wins over Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Burnley to finish the campaign on home soil.
Everton haven’t conceded a goal in front of their supporters since February 6 against Manchester City.
On Saturday, they return for the first time this summer, with the club deciding to do away with the traditional friendly at Goodison late in pre-season. While questioned at the time, it’s a move that’s only served anticipation to pay the Old Lady a visit.
One of the most alluring factors about Saturday’s game is the fact that some of those new-season traits should begin to surface.
🔊 “If the offer had been high enough, then Watford may have thought ‘let’s do business’. Overall it was unsettling.” #EFC
— THE BLUE ROOM (@TheBlueRoomEFC) August 15, 2019
Everton will be wearing this season’s kit, for a start, but Marco Silva will likely draft in some new faces. Fabian Delph, Alex Iwobi and Moise Kean—who made a brief debut on Saturday at Palace—have been in training this week, meaning there’s a chance for a new hero to emerge in front of royal-blue masses.
While that freshness will add an extra layer to the atmosphere, hopefully the edge that defined the latter stages of the previous campaign will be there too. The one that makes opponents hesitate and hurry.
The Originals, a fan organisation who have liaised with the club about improving the noise inside Goodison, have teased there’s something big planned for the opening day of the campaign. Meanwhile, the pre-Z-Cars siren that was introduced and maintained after the Merseyside derby will likely be the trigger for a raucous couple of hours.
Hopefully, it will make for an uncomfortable afternoon for the visitors, who are likely to be lacking in some belief after a torrid end to the previous campaign and a 3-0 home defeat last week.
Watford will be defensive, cohesive and with Silva in the opposition dugout, be determined to get one over on the Toffees. They brandished rubber snakes in this fixture last season to show their displeasure at their former boss; quite the statement.
But with a couple of new additions and a fanbase backing them that’s thirsty for some football, Everton can get over the line in a tight encounter.
New season at Goodison? The home fans will want last season’s Everton.
Prediction: Everton 1-0 Watford