Everton vs Aston Villa

, 31 January, 0comments  |  Jump to most recent
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Everton are back on home turf after three successive away games that yielded a handsome win in the FA Cup Fourth Round but just one Premier League point and a cold reality check at Anfield that has left them four points adrift of the Champions League places.

The Merseyside derby defeat was the Blues' third away League match without a win and, combined with the Boxing Day disaster against Sunderland at Goodison Park, that sequence has seen a good deal of the heady optimism washing through the fanbase to evaporate.

Though there were glaring tactical issues at play against Liverpool on Tuesday night that compounded the gulf in resources available to the two clubs, the blame for Everton's recent patchy form arguably rests on a mounting injury crisis combined with physical and mental fatigue.

Though transfer deadline day always offers hope of much-needed reinforcements, Roberto Martinez's rhetoric hasn't offered much hope that any major moves are afoot to add to a squad whose lack of depth again looks likely to scupper a bid to finish in the top four. Any late arrival would be ineligible to face Villa this weekend, anyway, but there is no question that it would give the whole place a lift.

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Thanks to that list of significant injury absentees, the manager has few options at the back and up front for this one, though particularly where defence is concerned, Tuesday will have given him food for thought.

The unfit pairing of Phil Jagielka and Antolin Alcaraz was ruthlessly exploited by Brendan Rodgers and it's fair to say that against Villa, a team that also likes to play on the counter-attack, Martinez will be asking for more trouble if he deploys the same partnership of, at the least, the same high defensive line.

In hindsight, the experience offered by Tony Hibbert might have been a better option at Anfield than John Stones and he may opt for the veteran this time in the continued absence of Seamus Coleman who remains sidelined with a hamstring injury.

With Sylvain Distin also out, he could also use Stones alongside Jagielka in the centre, as he has done in recent matches, which would mean Hibbert starting by default.

In midfield, Martinez does have some choices, though, including playing Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar either side of the Barry-McCarthy axis and pushing Ross Barkley up behind Kevin Mirallas, or handing Steven Naismith the honour of partnering the Belgian and choosing between Osman and Pienaar on the left.

New loan signing, Lacina Traore, who was unveiled to the press yesterday, could fit enough to play some role, but the feeling is that he could still be about 10 days away.

Villa will travel in good spirits after their stirring Birmingham derby victory over West Brom on Wednesday evening but they will probably be without their chief speed merchant, Gaby Agbonlahor. Christian Benteke has rediscovered some goalscoring form, though, and he will likely by Paul Lambert's biggest threat.

With the Champions League charge suffering a jarring setback on Tuesday, Everton simply have to get back to winning ways with a win over Villa and set the stage for a potentially vital clash at White Hart Lane on Sunday week when Gerard Deulofeu is line to return.

Betting: Here are the odds on Everton vs Aston Villa
KIck off: 3pm
Referee: Robert Madley

Quotes or other material sourced from ToffeeWeb Match Reports

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