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Everton vs. Aston Villa: The Opposition View | Visitors confident of a win

Toffees lost their first of the season against Emery’s men, before a wonderful Carabao Cup victory in late September

Aston Villa v Everton - Carabao Cup - Third Round - Villa Park
Aston Villa's Douglas Luiz shoots towards goal during the Carabao Cup third round match at Villa Park, Birmingham. 
Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images

Everton have been going through another difficult stretch of schedule over the last month as 2023 was turning to 2024, the team was doing its best to overcome injuries and tough opposition - and the new year is not much different than the old one.

Teams like Spurs, Manchester City, and Aston Villa are rough outs this year, but they must be faced all the same. Wolves have also been a different force this season, having suffered for years since Nuno last had them pushing up the league table.

The Toffees know they can beat this side - they’ve done it already this year - although they know they can be beaten as well. Sunday’s match is about a certain conviction of spirit as much as talent and execution.

But can the Blues take three points from one of the top sides in England while stopping a winless skid at five in a row? Only time will tell, after all.

Ahead of Sunday’s game, we spoke to Phil Vogel, from SB Nation’s dedicated Villa blog, 7500 to Holte:

RBM: First off, with Aston Villa in absolutely fabulous form thus far this year, what is the mood around Villa Park and supporters right now?

PV: The spirits are high at Villa Park, just as the team is at the table. It hasn’t been perfect... but pretty close! There is a giant swell of support for everything on the pitch. I also think there is a bit of shock. No one expected to be discussed among title contenders. The Villa fan base is split in one funny way, some want more media attention for the success of the club, the other half want no one to mention us so we can just keep quietly doing our thing. Internally, I think I speak for most Villa supporters when I say I’m fighting between expecting the bottom to fall out (like happened every March under Martin O’Niell) and daring to dream.

RBM: How has this team taken their game to the next level? Who can be pointed to as why, and why?

PV: begins and ends with Unai Emery. He has taken a team that was underperforming under the previous manager to near the top of the table with a few additions of his own. It is largely the same squad but he had coached and planned his way to success. He works with every player and his video breakdown meetings are legendary in terms of depth and length. Every player has improved. And every player has bought into the plan. Can it continue at this level ... I don’t know, but I’m hoping so.

Aston Villa Training and Press Conference
JANUARY 05: Unai Emery head coach of Aston Villa talks to the press during a press conference at Bodymoor Heath training ground
Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images

RBM: To build upon the previous question a bit, what has Unai Emery done to this side to turn it into this formidable side so quickly during his short tenure?

PV: improving every player... Unai Emery has also taught the supporters to be more accepting of his plans by delivering success. A year ago in the early days of Emery you could feel/hear/see the concerns when the defenders would play out of tight spaces, now the entire club is behind the system. It really is remarkable. There is one big concern right now, can Villa break down a low block. Personally, I think it is one of the most difficult things to do in football and I’m not certain Villa have the ability to do it regularly... but only about five teams in Europe do.

RBM: How is the side appraising its European chances after winning Group E of the UECL, and what are the expectations for the rest of the year like across all competitions?

PV: have the ability to win the competition. We don’t know our round of 16 opponents yet, but I’m very glad to have dodged the round against Europa League dropouts. Villa struggled traveling in Europe so it is by no means a guarantee. Emery is also going to have to be careful with managing minutes because I think the Premier League is the priority (no one has said that publicly, and nor should they). It will take a little luck and maybe some Emi Martinez shootout shenanigans, but supporters are expecting to give it a go.

RBM: Will Villa be busy this winter to reinforce their position for the long haul?

PV: No, I actually don’t expect Villa to make a move unless there is an outgoing player. At the end of December, I could see the very tired legs. We had something like 9 games in 35 days and it was largely the same team (or at least the same 16ish players). Hopefully, a calm start to January has helped some of the recovery, and it looks like Youri Tielemans and Pau Torres are back from their injuries for the Everton clash.

It is no secret that Emery wants some more depth, but the club isn’t desperate for it. If the right deal is there, the club will make the move. Every supporter knows an injury to Emi Martinez or Ollie Watkins would have the potential to sink the season. But no top-class player is going to come to Villa to sit behind either one of them.

RBM: How do you expect Villa to set up on Sunday, and which of those names do you think might cause the Toffee real harm?

PV: Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Torres, Alex Moreno, Kamara, McGinn, Luiz, Ramsey, Bailey, Watkins.

I think we will go back to four in the back. It could easily be Konsa and right back and Diego Carlos partnering with Torres. The midfield of Kamara, McGinn, Luiz is set and playing out of their minds when together. Ramsey has struggled some coming back from a foot injury. Bailey is the danger man right now as Everton know well. His confidence is sky-high... I’ve described him as playing like someone holding down the skill button on FIFA. He is just having fun out there ... but he can turn the ball over in dangerous spots while playing with it.

RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Sunday’s Premier League tie?

PV: I’ll say 1-2 to the Villa.

Our thanks to Phil for his time.