Everton has a chance to break out of an early-season slump offensively with a trip to newly-promoted Aston Villa on Friday at Villa Park. (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
Morgan Schneiderlin could make his return after missing last week with suspension and could partner with Andre Gomes in midfield. However, new signing Jean-Philippe Gbamin performed admirably for Marco Silva, and he could have some selection headaches already this early in the season.
For Dean Smith and Aston Villa, it’s another night game at home in Villa Park, and a chance to get the side’s first win. After a strong finish against Bournemouth, maybe it can take that momentum into Friday’s match against Everton.
Aston Villa: Heaton; El Mohamady, Engels, Mings, Taylor; McGinn, Luiz, Grealish; Trezeguet, Wesley, Jota
Everton manager Marco Silva on his team’s defensive resiliency: “The feeling is really good when we finish a match and haven’t conceded a goal. It means we have worked together and are understanding the plans and our way of defending. It starts up front and all of them have to be proud because of the work they are doing. I am really proud of what we are achieving with our defensive organisation.”
Both teams have spent heavily in the offseason to upgrade their squad, but Aston Villa is still finding life difficult back in the Premier League. Everton, at least, still have a strong defensive core, and should be able to hold off the likes of Wesley and McGinn with his late runs into the box.
With another week of fitness in Richarlison and a chance for Alex Iwobi to play, either starting or off the bench, Everton has a chance to really brush past Aston Villa and make a statement. However, they’re clearly still a work in progress, so it will probably be another tight game. Everton 2-1 Aston Villa
21y 119d – Aged 21 years and 119 days, Sean Longstaff is the youngest player to score for Newcastle in the Premier League since Rolando Aarons in May 2016 (20y 181d v Spurs). Talent. pic.twitter.com/3dinaQSG9e
Group I, however, is seeing some distance between first and second thanks to Croatia’s result versus Ukraine.
Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales
Neil Taylor was sent off in the 69th minute for Wales, whose World Cup hopes are in trouble.
Seamus Coleman was stretchered off after the tackle, with a scary-looking injury that will leave Everton fans sick in more ways than one. Coleman’s leg was broken, and left dangling by the challenge.
Ireland couldn’t take advantage of the sending off, and failed in a bid to overtake Serbia for first in Group D. The Irish trail on goal differential, and will host Serbia on Sept. 5.
But Wales will rue the result more, remaining four points back of second-place Ireland. Chris Coleman’s side drops a point behind Austria as well, and will not have Taylor or Gareth Bale (card accumulation) in its next match. That comes against leaders Serbia.
Italy 2-0 Albania
Daniele De Rossi scored a 12th minute penalty kick won by Andrea Belotti, and Ciro Immobile scored late to provided the goals in Gianluigi Buffon’s 1000th appearance for club and country. Fittingly, it ended in a clean sheet. The match was briefly delayed after flares were thrown onto the field.
Spain 4-1 Israel
David Silva, Vitolo, and Diego Costa stakes the Spaniards to a three-goal lead, with Lior Refaelov ruining David De Gea‘s clean sheet with 11 minutes to play. Isco scored the match’s final goal.
Spain remains atop Group G on goal differential, eight better than second place Italy. Israel is four points behind both.
Croatia 1-0 Ukraine
Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic’s 38th minute goal was enough for the hosts, and Croatia is now five points clear of Ukraine and three above Iceland midway through qualifying.
Elsewhere Austria 2-0 Moldova — RB Leipzig’s Sabitzer nabs winner
Liechtenstein 0-3 Macedonia — Ilija Nestorovski bags brace
Kosovo 1-2 Iceland — Sigurdsson PK the match winner
Georgia 1-3 Serbia — Mitrovic, Tadic lead the way
Turkey 2-0 Finland — Brace for Cenk Tosun
Out: Oscar (Shanghai SIPG), John Mikel Obi (Tianjin TEDA), Patrick Bamford (Middlesbrough), Dion Conroy (Swindon Town), Marco Van Ginkel (PSV Eindhoven, loan), Jay Dasilva (Charlton, loan), Isaiah Brown (Huddersfield Town, loan), Fankaty Dabo (Swindon Town, loan), Charlie Colkett (Swindon Town, loan), Fikayo Tomori (Brighton & Hove Albion, loan), Mukhtar Ali (Vitesse Arnhem, loan)
Out: Tom Carroll (Swansea City), Anton Walkes (Atlanta United, loan), Ryan Loft (Stevenage, loan), Shayon Harrison (Yeovil Town, loan), Connor Ogilvie (Stevenage, loan), Luke Amos (Southend United, loan).
The January transfer window shut at 6 p.m. ET on Jan. 31 meaning the squad each PL club now has is all they have to work with between now and May.
With a flurry of late deals, plenty of teams managed to grab hold of what they needed. Just. As Southampton splashed $21.5 million on Manolo Gabbiadini to set a new club record for a transfer fee. Crystal Palace, Hull City and Burnley were also busy.