After a first opening day win in five years, Everton are in confident mood. Everton’s belief highlighted by Nikica Jelavic’s post-match comments on Monday:
“Manchester United are strong but we killed them. David de Gea saved them. We could have really destroyed them”.
Monday’s win was Everton’s first opening day win and clean sheet since August 1996.
Aston Villa succumbed to an opening day loss at newly promoted West Ham. Despite controlling the early stages, Villa faded and West Ham could have stretched their lead. Paul Lambert will look for a quick response from his side when Everton visit.
The two teams are at opposite ends of the form spectrum. David Moyes’ men are in fine form with three defeats in 24 games. Aiming for a club record 11 Premier League games unbeaten, Everton are flying.
Unlike Everton, Aston Villa start Saturday’s match looking for a first league win in 12 matches. Villa’s struggles are clear in their home form with Lambert’s side winning one of 13 league games at Villa Park.
Everton are clear favourites on current form but Villa hold the edge in past meetings. Unbeaten in 12 league meetings, Villa are Everton’s bogey team. Everton’s last win at Villa Park came in February 2005 with no wins since. The 2005 victory is Everton’s only win at Villa since 1987 (24 meetings).
Despite Everton’s winless streak, eight of the 12 matches ended in draws. The sides have drawn six of the last seven meetings and, with Everton drawing their last four away games, the betting money points towards a draw. One thing is certain; David Moyes’ side will be looking to end their Villa hoodoo on Saturday.
Fresh from Monday’s win over United, Everton have a fully fit squad. Sylvain Distin (back) and Nikica Jelavic (leg) picked up minor ailments on Monday but both will recover in time.
The home side, however, are missing several first team players. Richard Dunne (groin), Marc Albrighton (metatarsal), Gabriel Agbonlahor (knee ligament) remains around a month away from returning. Club captain Stiliyan Petrov continues his recovery from leukaemia whilst Nathan Delfouneso’s thigh injury rules him out.
Players to Watch
Leon Osman relishes matches against Aston Villa. The diminutive playmaker has five career goals against Paul Lambert’s side – his best return against any Premier League side. Everton’s long serving midfielder will also make his 250th Premier League appearance on Saturday. The home side will look to front man Darren Bent. The England forward has three goals in his last three appearances against Everton.
Against Manchester United, Marouane Fellaini’s height unsettled a makeshift defence. This direct approach led to Everton attempting 275 passes with 71% accuracy. At the height of their form, last season, David Moyes’ side were attempting 426 passes a game with 77% accuracy.
Exposing Manchester United’s weaknesses required a slightly different approach. Whilst Monday’s tactics were a success, Everton need a more proactive approach against Villa.
Whilst at his dominant best against United, Fellaini’s best position remains in the heart of midfield. Using the best aerial player, possession winner and tackler as a target man leaves Everton short in midfield. Long term, Fellaini should return to a central role with Steven Naismith / Kevin Mirallas filling his advanced position.
The New Boy – Karim El Ahmadi
Villa’s new signing was one of the positives for Paul Lambert in the West Ham defeat. Assured in possession and with a good reading of the game, the Moroccan looks an astute signing. Making three of the team’s 12 interceptions, the holding midfielder is adept at breaking up opposition attacks.
Attempting 91 passes, El Ahmadi’s passing output was the highest of any Villa or West Ham player. Completing 77 of the 91 gave El Ahmadi a passing accuracy of 85%; the team average was 80%. Creating two of the team’s 12 chances, the midfielder also has the capabilities to threaten at the other end of the pitch.
The approach of both sides may prove pivotal. With just two clean sheets in the last 11 meetings, Everton’s clashes with Villa always promise goals. Although, given Everton’s defensive resilience against Manchester United and Villa’s lack of threat at West Ham, this may buck the goal-scoring trend. Whilst the sides are at opposite ends of the form table, Villa’s record may affect Moyes’ men.
Century – Everton’s next away win will be their 100th PL away win
Drought – Aston Villa have failed to score in 5 of their last 7 league games
Formidable – 8 Premier League matches since Marouane Fellaini lost a tackle
Milestone – This is Marouane Fellaini’s 100th Premier League start
Unbeaten – 28 League games since Darron Gibson tasted defeat