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Howard plays down injury, ready for Villa clash

Tim Howard is confident that he will be fit enough to mind the net for Everton for the big one against Aston Villa on Sunday.

The American keeper strained a thigh during Everton's win over Wigan last weekend, prompting concern that he would have to sit out a match which promises to define who will battle Arsenal for the final Champions League place.

The ex-Manchester United shot-stopper has recovered well since, however, and has listed himself as probable for this weekend.

"It's OK, it was a sore strain that I picked up in the game," Howard told the club's official Web site. "I suspect it will be fine for the game coming up. I haven't been training, I've just been off it for a couple of days -- we had a day or two off -- so everyone is getting back up to speed."

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Everton has the chance to leapfrog into fifth place if it beats Villa, which Howard insists is more than enough motivation for the battling Blues.

"I think it will be great," he said over the prospect of overhauling the Villans. "Given that we've been behind them all season. And now to have the opportunity to overtake them would be something really motivating for us. We're in good spirits. We had a great victory last weekend so we're going there looking for good things."