Everton V Aston Villa preview
Saturday, February 1
After a week to forget for Everton, they will be hoping to rectify what happened on Tuesday night as they welcome a buoyant Aston Villa side to Goodison Park on Saturday. Both sides had a local derby during the week with Everton enduring 90mins of pain as they went down to arch rivals Liverpool 4-0, a result which not only hurt local pride, but dealt a big blow to Everton's hopes for 4th. Aston Villa was on the other side of the fence as they beat neighbours West Brom 4-3 in an enthralling match. In what shapes up as a crucial clash, more so for Everton, who know anything but 3pts against the Villains could really end their hopes of finishing in those top 4 places. For Aston Villa, who sit 10th, I am sure they will want to continue that good feeling from the win over West Brom and look to extend that gap between themselves and the bottom half of the table.
Roberto Martinez on the upcoming match
'Aston Villa wil be a team coming here to win. They're not a side to try and just nick a point. They're a team full of bravery, energy and attacking threat. We'll be aware of that but it's about ourselves. I think if you want to assess Aston Villa over the course of this season, they've had some real highs and some real lows. What they always do is prepare. They don't carry effects from game to game. They have a dynamic group of players and they come here with a different focus to midweek. You need to praise the way they play and open games which leads to chances for both sides. What you always get with Villa is they will always be in the game.'
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has heaped praise on midfielder Fabian Delph in an unusual fashion saying
He moans about everything, You name it, he will moan. He just moans - but in a good way.
'He's a really likeable guy. He'll moan about things that are incredible!
'But you have got to have guys who are crabby. You need those sort of players in your side - people that will moan for the sake of moaning. You need them because it shows that he wants to win.'
Everton Team News:
The injury list continued to grow for Everton after the Liverpool match with striker Romelu Lukaku damaging his ankle in the loss and is facing a couple weeks on the sidelines, added to the absence of new signing Lacina Traore who is struggling with a hamstring and is a doubt to make his debut in the Villa match, it means Everton will be without a recognised striker on the weekend, with Mirallas or Naismith expected to lead the line. Everton did welcome back Barkley and Pienaar against Liverpool, however, they did play with injections and both looked a bit off the pace, however both are expected to be in the line up to face Villa. Antolin Alcaraz, who just made his way back from muscle fatigue, will miss the match against Villa, which means youngster John Stones is expected to partner Jagielka, who is struggling with a hamstring problem himself, against Villa. Seamus Coleman, Sylvain Distin and Gerard Deulofeu, who are all struggling with hamstring injuries, will miss the match against Villa, but Martinez confirmed that they could be back for the match next week against Spurs. They are all added to the injury list that also includes long term absentees Gibson and Kone (both knee) and Bryan Oviedo (broken leg). In transfer news, Everton released Heitinga from his final 6 months of his contract as he made the move to Fulham.
Possible Starting XI: Howard, Baines, Stones, Jagielka, Hibbert, Barry, McCarthy, McGeady, Pienaar, Barkley, Mirallas
Player to watch: Kevin Mirallas
Mirallas was probably the only Everton player that could hold his head high after the disaster on Tuesday, he hassled and chased everything and was our main attacking threat. His return to form has been a timely boost for Everton amidst this injury crisis and with both Lukaku and Traore expected to be out, Everton will need to rely on the tricky Belgian even more and he could be tasked with leading the line for Everton, a role which he is capable of doing.
Aston Villa Team News:
The only real major question mark in regards to the squad is the fitness of Gabby Agbonlahor, he is struggling to overcome a foot problem he suffered a fortnight ago and is a big doubt for the match. He will most likely join Okore (knee), Herd (back), N'Zogbia (calf) and Kozak (broken leg) on the sidelines. Hard to see Lambert changing his side after his sides win midweek
Possible Starting XI: Guzan, Lowton, Bertrand, Vlaar, Clark, El Ahmadi, Westwood, Bacuna, Delph, Weimann, Benteke
Player to watch: Christian Benteke
He may not be emulating the goalscoring form of his debut season, but the big Belgian is still a major threat for Everton. In the corresponding fixture last season at Goodison, Benteke absolutely dominated the Everton defence, and with a makeshift defence including the likes of youngster Stones and Hibbert, Benteke could be licking his lips at the prospect of coming up against them. He scored a goal, albeit a penalty in the 4-3 win, so perhaps he will have a bit of confidence heading into the game.
Match Facts & Stats
1. This meeting between the two sides with be the 198th time they have faced each other in the league, the most played fixture in the English top flight. Amazingly the record is tied with both sides recording 72 wins with 49 draws
2. Goodison is a home away from home for Aston Villa, they have not lost at Goodison in nearly 8 years
3. Everton are unbeaten in the last 3 meetings between these clubs, however prior to that, they were winless in 12 games against Villa.
4. A win against Villa on the weekend will be Everton's 300th Premier League win, a feat that Villa reached on Wednesday by beating West Brom
5. 7 of the last 10 games have ended in draws between these sides
Simply put, this is a must win game for Everton, they cannot afford to dwell on the loss to Liverpool, they need the 3pts in this game because if they don't, they could be as far back as 7pts from 4th by the end of the weekend, almost extinguishing any hope of 4th. This is a big danger game for Everton, they have a ridiculously long injury list at the moment, combine that with the fact that Villa tend to play in a very similar style to that of Liverpool, one where they tend to love playing on the counter, something Everton really struggled with during the week against Liverpool, it doesn't sound promising. Would love to see Everton bounce back from the horror show on Tuesday, but I am struggling to see it, injuries have caught up with the squad, and since Christmas, we haven't looked like the side we were earlier in the season, therefore I am going with a 2-2 draw with Benteke scoring twice and Mirallas and Barkley for Everton. COYB!!!! PROVE ME WRONG AND GRAB THESE 3PTS, REALLY IS A MUST WIN LADS!!!