Everton defender Mason Holgate is relishing the added competition for places at Goodison Park ahead of the new Premier League campaign amid reports that manager Ronald Koeman is considering a move for Barcelona defender Thomas Vermaelen as he seeks to bolster his backline.
Holgate, 20, established himself as part of the Toffees' first-team last season, making 21 appearances in all competitions as Koeman's men secured Europa League qualification.
The England Under-21 international was deployed at centre-half and right-back last season and is expected to continue deputising for the injured Seamus Coleman, who is expected to miss around half of the new campaign.
Holgate's place in the starting line-up is far from secure with full-backs Jonjoe Kenny and new additions Cuco Martina - one of 11 signings made this summer - vying for a start, but the former Barnsley youth graduate is buoyed by the fight for game-time on Merseyside.
"It is not only right-back, I think pretty much all over the starting XI we could play one or two people in every position," Holgate told Everton's official website.
"It is positive that there is a lot of competition for places. I always hope to start and play but I am sure the coach will pick the team he thinks will get three points against Stoke. Whether I am in or not, I am sure whatever team starts will go out and do well.
The youngster, who was given extra time off due to his involvement in the Under-21 European Championship with England, added:"I played 70 minutes against Sevilla and 45 before (against Genk on July 22). But I am feeling good and fit. I think everybody is fit and ready for the game on Saturday, which is what pre-season is all about. Everyone feels fit, strong and ready."
Koeman is a huge admirer of Holgate and included him in every matchday squad last season, but the Barcelona legend is intent on bolstering his defensive options and may raid is former club in order to do so.
The Dutchman is believed to be pondering a move for Vermaelen, who has started just seven La Liga matches since joining Barcelona from Arsenal in the summer of 2014, but it remains to be seen if Koeman follows up his interest with a formal offer for the Belgium international.
Vermaelen spent last season on loan with Roma but was once again blighted by the injuries during his time in the Italian capital. The former Gunners star seems to have no chance of resurrecting his career at Barcelona but is still courting interest from a number of Premier League sides, with Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion identifying him as a potential target along with Everton.