Everton Women will look to reclaim fifth place this weekend when they take on Aston Villa at Walton Hall Park, with Katrine Veje back in training and in contention for Sunday’s clash with Carla Ward’s side.
The versatile defender’s return to fitness will be a welcome boost for Blues boss Brian Sorenson, who will be without Emily Ramsay and Sara Holmgaard due to ankle and hip flexor injuries respectively.
With Everton’s last result a hard-fought point against WSL leaders Manchester United a month ago, confidence will be high amongst the squad, who can leapfrog the Villains with victory and still have a game in hand on their Midlands’ rivals.
Sunday’s clash kicks off a series of winnable fixtures for the Blues, starting with an opponent they have already faced and beaten twice this season, with both games being tight, competitive affairs. And with only the Red Devils, Arsenal and Chelsea boasting a better defensive record this season, not many would bet against Sorensen sticking with the wing-back and three centre-halves formation that has served him well this campaign.
That being said, Ward may well be happy setting her stall out for a point but Everton have managed to score three in each of their last two games at Walton Hall Park, with Jess Park and Katja Snoeijs beginning to show signs of a potent, striking partnership.
Harbouring similar ambitions to Everton, Villa head into the fixture unbeaten in all competitions since December, having claimed eight points from 12. With defeats only coming against teams in the top eight, a 1-1 draw at home against Brighton & Hove Albion will definitely be considered two points dropped in what has been a solid campaign for Ward’s side.
10 of the Villains’ 23 goals have been scored by Rachel Daly, with the incredibly versatile England international seemingly finding her best position leading the line. Ably assisted by Kenza Dali, the duo will be the ones Villa will look to regarding unlocking Everton’s resolute backline. Former Arsenal star Jordan Nobbs, who also has five league goals including a hattrick against Brighton this season, will be relishing the midfield war the Blues will bring in Sunday’s battle for fifth.
Two meetings in October saw Everton get the better of Villa in both the WSL and Continental Cup. A penalty shootout was needed to separate the two in the latter after Aggie Beever-Jones cancelled out Natasha Harding’s goal at Walton Hall Park. Four days earlier, Lucy Hope’s strike was enough to claim all three points at the Bescot Stadium.
The Blues boast a good record against this Sunday’s visitors, having beaten the Villains in seven of the last eight league games, as well as winning five of the last six away games at Aston Villa in all competitions.
But despite Everton’s good record, last season’s fixture saw goals from Emily Gielnik and Ramona Petzelberger condemn the Blues to defeat. The Toffees that will take to the field this Sunday though, are a much different outfit to that of 12 months ago and will be keen to prove as such with another positive result in front of their home fans.