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Everton vs Aston Villa - Match Preview | Toffees face stiff test against high-flying Villans

Unai Emery’s side could go joint top with a win at Goodison Park

Aston Villa v Everton - Carabao Cup Third Round Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Everton will stride out at Goodison Park for the first time in 2024 when they take on high-flying Aston Villa on Sunday.

The Toffees go into the game with only goal difference keeping them outside of the drop zone after Luton’s late leveller against Burnley on Friday, though a draw in the long-term is perhaps the best result as it also keeps a bit if distance between themselves and the Clarets.

The Toffees have had a welcome 10-day break since their last match against Crystal Palace, a vital opportunity to refresh after hectic run of eight games in December.

That draw made it five without a win in all competitions following that brilliant four-game winning run at the start of last month, but there were signs the team was rediscovering their form against the Eagles,

Crystal Palace v Everton - Emirates FA Cup Third Round Photo by Vince Mignott/MB Media/Getty Images

They should then have two weeks off for a winter break after Sunday but their draw at Selhurst Park means they face a replay on Wednesday, with either a further 10-days until the fourth round or, if they lose against Palace, a 13 day wait until they resume Premier League action against Fulham.

The calming of the fixture list does not mean it will be a dull month however, with plenty of activity off the pitch to keep us interested.

The first major bit of news was Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s red card against Palace being rightly rescinded, though questions remains as to how and why he was sent off in the first place.

Monday is also the day any clubs in breach of profit and sustainability regulations in 2022-23 will be charged by the Premier League. The noises from the club suggest they will be fine, but it will be a nervous wait nonetheless.

There is still no date for their appeal against the first 10-point deduction, while the prospective takeover by 777 Partners is yet to be approved, with doubts over the deal growing with each passing week without firm news from the Premier League.

Then there is the January transfer window, with rumours surrounding Amadou Onana and Aranut Danjuma continuing to bubble under the surface.

It feels like this could be a pivotal few weeks even though Everton will not actually be playing that many games.

The opposition

Middlesbrough F.C. v Aston Villa - Emirates FA Cup Third Round Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Aston Villa look to be the latest club to have looked an Everton and said ‘that is how not to do it’.

The Midlands club have enjoyed a stellar 14 months under Unai Emery, whose appointment in late 2022 has proven to be inspired.

They were only out of the relegation zone on goals scored when Steven Gerrard was sacked in October 2022, but former Arsenal boss Emery guided them to a seventh-place finish, their highest in more than a decade, and a place in Europe.

That progress has continued this campaign after some canny recruitment over the summer, with the Villans second in the Premier League and progressing in the Europa Conference League. Win on Sunday and they will draw level with leaders Liverpool.

Toffees fans can only look back at the wasteful years of 2016-2020 and wonder what might have been.

Previous meeting

Aston Villa 1-2 Everton, 27 September 2023

Aston Villa v Everton - Carabao Cup Third Round Photo by Andrew Kearns - CameraSport via Getty Images

Everton were hammered 4-0 at Villa Park in the league in August but their second visit in the Carabao Cup in September was much happier, with goals from James Garner and Dominic Calvert-Lewin sealing victory.

Team news

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

Everton have Calvert-Lewin available after his red card and subsequent three-match ban was rescinded.

Abdoulaye Doucoure could also make his first appearance in a month after recovering from a hamstring injury. Dwight McNeil’s ankle injury is not as serious as first feared but he is unlikely to feature here. The same applies to Ashley Young despite the 38-year-old returning to training.

Idrissa Gana Gueye is absent as he is with Senegal for the Africa Cup of Nations.

What they said

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

Everton manager Sean Dyche: “You mix [the form] in with the longer run of games, and you go: ‘Actually, it’s a decent run.’ But the facts are the facts.

“The idea of the last few games – we’ve played some very good sides, and I think we’ve played very well in a couple of them. A couple of errors have cost us quite badly and there was one where we stepped off the mark down at Wolves.

“Within the performance levels, I think there have been clear signs of still remaining consistent. That’s what we have to do – still remain consistent to our performance levels. I preach it all the time to the players. The longer we do that; the more times we do that over a season, it pays you back, and it is a season’s work – never more so than this season, having 10 points currently gone.”

Aston Villa v Burnley FC - Premier League Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images

Aston Villa boss Unai Emery: “They are progressively getting better and playing being very competitive. With their issue with the points [deduction], they are playing well and being very competitive in each match.

“It’s very difficult to beat them in their stadium with their fans. We respect them a lot. We have some injured players and they have some injured players as well.

“They’re going to be very competitive at home and we’re going to prepare the match respecting them a lot.”

Final word

This is going to be a tough game against a side that has lit up the Premier League this season and have a fine recent record against the Toffees. But after a difficult few weeks Everton need to starting turning the ship around to avoid being dragged back into the bottom three. They really need to take something from this game.