Everton travel to Aston Villa, on Saturday afternoon, looking to improve their recent form; defeats against Bolton and Tottenham have left Everton in 11th. Everton have struggled for consistency with fans witnessing the good, the bad and the indifferent. Alex McLeish has moulded his new team in his customary style. This season has seen Aston Villa become hard to beat with a strong work ethic.
Recent encounters have been evenly contested with seven of the last 11 league meetings ending in draws. The problem, for Everton, is Aston Villa have won the other four. Everton’s last league win over Aston Villa was a resounding 4-1 victory in March 2006. The Toffees’ goals, that day, came from Tim Cahill (2), James McFadden and Leon Osman. Cahill (7 goals) and Osman’s (5 goals) goals totals are their highest against any Premier League team.
Everton failed to make the most of their game in hand. The Toffees lost 2-0 as Spurs showed why they’re tipped for a title challenge. Everton are looking for a win that could send them into the top half. Aston Villa won 3-1, away to Bristol Rovers, in the FA Cup, last weekend. The home side lost their last league fixture, 2-0, to newly promoted Swansea. Victory for Villa could also move them into the top half.
Everton’s scoring has a distinct pattern. A league high – 75% – of goals have come in the second half, compared to nine league games without a first half goal. Both sides score a large number of goals after 80 minute mark; Everton (45%) Aston Villa (43%). This is a sign of the work ethic and spirit the managers have instilled in their teams.
Everton have struggled in terms of ball retention and passing, this season. This is understandable due to the sale of their most creative players Mikel Arteta and Steven Pienaar, in the last twelve months. Despite that, Everton still have the edge, over Aston Villa; in terms of passes played and pass completion rate.
Everton have struggled for goals with only QPR, West Brom and Wigan scoring less. First choice striker Louis Saha has been short of form and fan’s are beginning to tire of Moyes’ unwavering faith in the striker. Young forward Apostolos Vellios has been out of the first team picture for a few weeks; his effort in training hasn’t been up to standard. However on the pitch, the youngster has had a positive impact and deserves another chance; he has the edge over Saha in all key areas:
Everton have a deepening injury crisis with Cahill’s return to fitness cancelled out by the injury to Sylvain Distin (Hamstring). With Phil Jagielka still six weeks away from fitness, the loss of Distin is even more damaging. Jack Rodwell, Leon Osman (Both Knee) and Tony Hibbert (Groin) remain sidelined. Ross Barkley (Knee) and Seamus Coleman (Thigh) are both doubtful.
The home side have doubts over James Collins (Calf) and Carlos Cuellar (Thigh). Emile Heskey (Achilles) and Eric Lichaj (Hip) remain out for Villa. New signing Robbie Keane; loaned in from LA Galaxy, is in line to make his début. Star striker Darren Bent will be aiming to put his injury troubles behind him and fire Villa up the league table.
Saturday’s match is the first Everton match to be officiated by Mark Clattenburg; since the 2007 Merseyside derby. Clattenburg appeared influenced by Steven Gerrard, refused to award a red card for a two footed lunge and turned down penalty appeals. He is sure to receive a rather warm reception from the travelling support.
Darron Gibson will sign for Everton today, from Manchester United, for an initial £500,000. Before the Gibson deal, Everton hadn’t purchased a player, for cash, in 28 months. The lack of investment in the team is something that continues to sadden and anger Everton fans. With no sign of investment, the manager and players need to make the best of their situation; starting Saturday at Villa Park.
Leighton Baines has scored a penalty in the last 2 games against Villa
There have been just 2 clean sheets in the last 10 meetings
Everton have only won once at Villa Park in 25 years
The last 10 meetings have produced 34 goals
Everton v Aston Villa is the most played fixture in English football – 211 meetings