It may be tough at the top of it but it’s fretful at the foot of the Premier League table for the Villans once again this season. With four games remaining, the boys are in desperate need of points at B6. If they fail to collect all three this afternoon they could find themselves back in the relegation zone and under ever-increasing pressure.
Despite their recent rejuvenation, Sherwood’s charges have won only one of their last five Premier League games, which compares badly to the Toffees’ recent record. Having beaten Manchester United convincingly last weekend, Martinez’s men are in a rich vein of form and are unbeaten in six, picking up as many points in those six games as they did in the previous nineteen.
The stage is set for the two-hundredth game between Aston Villa and Everton, which is the most played fixture in the top flight of English football. With the Toffees having won seventy-four of those and the Villans seventy-two, the claret and blue army will be hoping the boys, who were incredibly unlucky to lose at The Etihad last weekend, will be primed for the fight and eager to add to their improving goal-scoring tally under Sherwood.
In the absence of Agbonlahor, who has scored more goals against Everton than any other side, the ‘battle of the Belgians’ could prove crucial this afternoon. Benteke, who has scored eight goals in his last seven Premier League games, in considerably better goal-scoring form than his international team-mate Lukaku, whose only Premier League goal since January came courtesy of a penalty against Newcastle United.
Aston Villa: L W D L L
Everton: W W D W W
Agbonlahor’s hamstring injury is expected to keep him out of action for another week.
Baker and Clark (both knee) are all unlikely to feature again this season.
Hutton (ankle) is back in training and will be assessed but this afternoon’s game is probably too early to see the Scot’s return.
Lowton Okore Vlaar Richardson
Cleverley Westwood Delph
The timing of the Toffees’ renaissance is unfortunate for Villa fans. After a seriously shaky start to the season, Martinez will want to push for a top eight spot, which the club has not failed to achieve in eight seasons. Moyes’ second season at Goodison was a troubled one and sticking with him proved to be a wise decision so Martinez is not under any particular pressure. However, having served up a reminder of what they are capable of, the boys from the blue half of Merseyside will be eyeing the points, as they are currently twenty-two points worse off than at the same stage last season.
Martinez has no new injury worries to contend with and may well name an unchanged side.
Pienaar is suffering from a muscle injury that is likely to rule him out of his third consecutive game.
Oviedo, who broke a metatarsal in training, will not play again this season.
Gibson and Hibbert are also long-term absentees.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Venue: Villa Park
Tickets: Tickets are still available, priced from £25 – £42
Last meeting: 18th October 2014: Everton 3 – Aston Villa 0
2-1 – Mark Lawrenson
1-1 – Paul Merson
2-1 – AnneMc