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Everton vs Aston Villa - Match Preview | Another tough test in the battle against the drop

The Toffees welcome Unai Emery’s Villans to Goodison Park

Aston Villa v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Tony McArdle - Everton FC/Everton FC via Getty Images

The Sean Dyche Everton survival challenge continues with another crucial home game against Aston Villa at Goodison Park.

Though its significance was played down in the build-up, the importance of last weekend’s win over Leeds cannot be overstated, especially as Bournemouth and Southampton also won away from home.

Defeat would have left them joint bottom and three points from safety. As it is they are now out of the relegation, albeit only by a point.

While we don’t necessarily want to see our relegation rivals losing, what last weekend did do is drag more teams into the mire, with the likes of Wolves, Leicester and Nottingham Forest not totally clear of danger.

The more teams involved in the scrap the better – and boy is it going to be a scrap for Everton.

Let’s not kid ourselves, last week’s game was not a great spectacle between two average sides. But in Everton’s predicament we cannot be too picky. It is all about getting the result in whatever way possible – including a Seamus Coleman howitzer from the right touchline (we know you meant it, Seamus).

Everton FC v Leeds United - Premier League Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images
Everton FC v Leeds United - Premier League Photo by Pat Scaasi/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

There is no time to reflect on the win though, it needs to be put behind us quickly as the next test is looming into view.

Home games are going to be where Everton’s survival fight is won and lost. Another three points on Saturday and hope might just be turned into belief.

The opposition

Aston Villa v Arsenal - Premier League - Villa Park Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images

Aston Villa are an excellent example of how being decisive and changing your manager can save your season – and lesson for Everton perhaps after they were accused of sticking with Frank Lampard for too long.

Lampard’s former England team-mate Steven Gerrard was sacked in October with the club only outside the relegation zone on goal difference after two wins from their opening 12 league matches (one of which was against Everton lol).

Unai Emery replaced him a couple of weeks later and won five out of his first six matches to lift the Midlands club into the safety of mid-table.

Things have begun to slide since, with Villa going into this game on the back of three successive defeats. Though two of those were against Man City and Arsenal, the latter of whom needed two stoppage-time goals to secure all three points last weekend.

Whenever Everton and Aston Villa meet it feels obligatory to mention the fact it is the most-played fixture in English league history. This will be the 210th meeting between the sides, with Aston Villa leading by 78 wins to Everton’s 76, with 55 draws.

Previous meeting

Aston Villa v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

As mentioned, Steven Gerrard secured one of only two league wins as Villa boss this season before his dismissal when the two sides met back in August.

Danny Ings (obviously) and Emi Buendia found the target for Villa, with Lucas Digne’s late own goal not enough for the Toffees.

Team news

Everton Training Session Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Amadou Onana is fit to start for Everton despite coming off against Leeds with a minor knee problem, but Dominic Calvert-Lewin is still not ready for a return as he recovers from a hamstring injury.

Nathan Patterson suffered a minor setback from his knee injury when playing for the U21s last week but James Garner could return to the squad after coming through that game unscathed after his recent back trouble.

Andros Townsend is still a few weeks away as he recovers from a ACL injury.

What they said

Everton Training Session Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Everton boss Sean Dyche: “It’s another important game, they all are. We weren’t miles off, but we were a little below par against Liverpool. There were a couple of mistakes.

“But the other two performances were really strong, the home crowd played a part in that without a doubt. And the feel-good factor (after the victories) just builds.

“You have to keep performing though, that’s key. You get the wins and then that just keeps building that mentality.

“We want that, but we have to go and earn the right. There are no gimmies in the Premier League. I have learnt that from all my years.

“So now it’s about taking the challenge on, taking the feel-good factor and the performance onto the next one.”

Aston Villa Training Session and Press Conference Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images

Aston Villa boss Unai Emery: “He [Sean Dyche] was amazing before in Burnley, and I know him because I’ve played against his teams before,” the Villa head coach said.

“At Everton, he’s getting the same performances. They are very, very competitive.

“Goodison Park is always difficult [to play at], and I think he is creating a new atmosphere with the supporters and the energy he’s brought to the team.

“It’s going to be a tough match, a difficult match, and we have to prepare as best as we can.

“We have to prepare our set pieces because we have to improve as we conceded some goals from set pieces in the last match against Arsenal.

“We are very demanding in how we can improve, especially against Everton who are a threat from set pieces.”

Final word

This will be a tougher match than last week as Aston Villa are much more of an attacking threat than Leeds, so Everton’s initial priority has to be keeping a clean sheet given their own scoring woes.

A scrappy 1-0 would do just fine, thanks.