Aston Villa-Everton Preview
Aston Villa have not won a Premier League match since their season-opening triumph, but at least they return from the international break with something positive to build on.
Feeling somewhat confident after drawing a league co-leader in their most recent fixture, Villa try again for that elusive second victory while looking to end their road struggles against Everton on Saturday.
Mired in a seven-game league losing streak, the Villans (1-2-9) showed tremendous fight in Remi Garde's first match as manager by playing Manchester City to a scoreless draw Nov. 8 at Villa Park. Though Aston Villa remain at the bottom of the table and in danger of dropping down to the Championship, just achieving something positive is a massive relief for the storied Birmingham club.
"We can take a great deal of confidence from not only the result but perhaps more importantly the overall performance of the team," midfielder Carles Gil told Villa's official website.
The Villans have managed two goals in their last five league games but after not recording a clean sheet since that 1-0 victory at Bournemouth on Aug. 8, they collectively felt their latest effort might be the turning point they've so desperately needed.
''(Man City) was a massive, massive draw for us," defender Micah Richards said.
Their test this weekend likely won't be any easier.
Though Villa won 3-2 at home May 2 to end an 0-4-4 stretch against Everton (4-5-3), they've dropped two straight while mired in an 0-4-2 bind at Goodison Park. Their last victory there came 3-2 on Dec. 7, 2008.
"It will be a difficult game, of course, but we will go there and express ourselves," Gil said. "If we perform like we know we can then hopefully we can achieve a positive result."
The Villans also visit the north end of Stanley Park in time for the Toffees to possibly welcome back ex-Villa midfielder Tom Cleverley, who has been out since suffering an ankle injury during the 1-all tie with Spurs on Aug. 29. Cleverley scored three times in 31 league matches for Aston Villa last season, but has neither a goal nor an assist in five games across all competitions for Everton.
"The last few months have been massively frustrating," he told Everton's official website. "I don't think any player wants to get injured but when you are settling in at a new club and finding your feet pretty quickly - which I thought I was - then it is even more so.
"But I am as fit as ever now and raring to go."
While the return of Cleverly would provide an obvious boost for an Everton club currently ninth in the table, they need Romelu Lukaku to continue his stellar offensive form. The Belgian striker has scored in two straight matches and recorded five of his team-leading seven Premier League goals in the last six. Lukaku notched the equaliser in the 43rd minute against West Ham United on Nov. 7, but like his teammates felt dissatisfied with the resulting 1-all draw.
"There were some really positive signs for us, but you play football to win and we're all a bit disappointed," he said.
Lukaku has a goal in three straight matches against Aston Villa.