The international break has nearly come to an end. Everton will try to put behind them the beginning of the season that has seen only one win in seven games, players not living up to expectations, and a host of injuries to key personnel. The first step on the path to retribution is a must-win match at home against Aston Villa.
The story of Everton's 2014-15 season has been the fitness of the team. Ross Barkley, Seamus Coleman, Sylvain Distin, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin Mirallas, Steven Pienaar, and John Stones have all sustained, or are still recovering from injuries. Thursday brought good news that Barkley could return as early as Saturday. Distin is back and ready to take over for Stones, who won't play until early 2015. Seamus Coleman, James McCarthy, and Steven Pienaar will be evaluated again before taking the field on Saturday.
Manager Paul Lambert leads Aston Villa into Goodison Park. He'll bring his assistant, and Everton admirer, Roy Keane. The Lions occupy tenth place on the Premier League table with three wins, one draw, and three losses. They are a dangerous and fearless opponent, already having defeated Liverpool at Anfield this season.
The threats to Tim Howard's goal come in the form of Gabriel Agbonlahor and the recently-returned from injury Christian Benteke.
Manchester United loanee Tom Cleverley holds down the midfield while Ron Vlaar should be fit to lead the defense against the Toffees.
Aston Villa have their own American goalkeeper, Brad Guzan.
What to Watch For
Everton come into the match trying to forget about the beginning of a season filled with should-be wins erased by late equalizers, defensive woes, and underperforming or injured stars. Adding to those problems is the pressure of putting all of that behind them and winning a "must-win" game.
Though Villa have already won twice on the road, they come in reeling from three straight, goalless losses to top-flight opponents Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester City. There is pressure on the team from Birmingham to get a result as well.
There will be two notable battles of national team teammates, both at the same position. Brad Guzan and Tim Howard are United States Men's National Team goalkeepers, and Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku line up at striker for the Belgian national team.
The key to the match for both teams will be bouncing back from recent poor form. Evertonians will hope that Romelu Lukaku can turn it on, while players like Seamus Coleman and Steven Pienaar can come back from injury and contribute. Aston Villa fans will hope that their team will score a goal, which they haven't managed to do in their last three matches.
Roberto Martinez thinks that Paul Lambert won't hold back, and will allow his team to attack. Martinez talked about his respect for Lambert's side on the Everton website:
"Last year at Goodison we had a really exciting, close game against them and we know we'll have to be at our best to win."
Times and TV Listings
UK - 3pm, no TV
US - 10am NBC Live Extra