Aston Villa arrive at Goodison Park on Saturday feeling more confident than they have in months – but will it be enough for the visitors to get a result? (10 a.m. ET, watch live online on NBC Sports Live Extra).
With an unbeaten run of just two games, it may not seem as though Villa are on the up-and-up. But with just one loss in their last five, Paul Lambert’s men finally seem to be settling down – and are once again playing some decent soccer. They managed to hold Liverpool to a draw by attacking right from the whistle, and came back from a two-goal deficit to beat rivals West Brom 4-3 in the midweek match.
Everton, meanwhile, are headed in the opposite direction, having slipped out of the top four and in danger of losing out on the European positions all together. They collapsed against Liverpool midweek, losing 4-0 in the Merseyside Derby, and it’s evident that injuries are taking a toll. And now that Romelu Lukaku is out for at least a month, are things about to get even worse for the Toffees?
With Lukaku out, the attention goes to Kevin Mirallas to lead the attack, with Aidan McGeady handed a start in midfield. Of course, in the absence of their top scorer, Everton’s goals could also come from the likes of Gareth Barry or Leighton Baines, while Seamus Coleman could come off the bench and grab his sixth of the season.
Lambert makes just one change to the side that beat West Brom, handing Grant Holt his first start in a Villa shirt, likely to compensate for Gabby Agbonlahor’s injury. It’s Matt Lowton that drops to the bench for the visitors.
And of course, we can’t fail to mention the matchup of the American goalkeepers. Tim Howard came off better in the reverse fixture at Villa Park, but will Brad Guzan find his time to shine this time around?
Everton: Howard, Baines, Jagielka, McGeady, Mirallas, Distin, McCarthy, Barry, Barkley, Osman, Stones
Subs: Joel, Hibbert, Naismith, Pienaar, Coleman, Vellios, Garbutt
Aston Villa: Guzan, Bacuna, Vlaar, Clark, Baker, Bertrand, Westwood, Delph, Weimann, Benteke, Holt
Subs: Steer, El Ahmadi, Sylla, Helenius, Albrighton, Tonev, Lowton