Everton-Aston Villa Preview
It's now or never for Aston Villa.
Remi Garde's Villa (3-7-17) take on Everton at Villa Park on Tuesday evening and know that their chances of surviving relegation are becoming increasingly slim with every passing winless week.
Villa have won just one in six and are rooted to the foot of the table, eight points from safety with 11 games remaining, while the visit of Everton starts a tricky run of fixtures that sees title-chasing Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur coming up in the next two weeks.
And Garde is fully aware of the Herculean, or perhaps Sisyphean, task that faces his side.
"It's a tremendously important game for us in midweek," Garde said."Picking up the three points would be vital for us.
"We will need the perfect game defensively and then we will need to be more threatening offensively."
Villa missed a chance to pull closer to safety with an abject display in Saturday's 2-1 defeat against Stoke City, and Garde was even more disappointed by the performance given that none of the six teams above Villa in the table managed to record weekend wins.
"It's more painful because psychologically one point against Stoke and on the table the stats would have been very efficient for us. But the hope is still there for us."
Mid-table Everton (8-11-7) arrive at Villa Park well-rested having sat out the weekend's Premier League action due to their Merseyside derby clash with Liverpool being rescheduled.
And the Toffees head to Birmingham in good spirits following the weekend's news that Iranian billionaire Farhad Moshiri has bought a 49.9% stake in the club, supplying the financial backing Everton have sought for over a decade.
"You can feel the excitement around the place and that's something we need to use out on the pitch," manager Roberto Martinez said. "When I started here I said we have to look for the Champions League positions and we have to become a winning team. That is a very broad statement and it's a difficult aim to achieve.
"Obviously, the investment and the involvement of Farhad Moshiri takes us into a different level in terms of accelerating the process. Clearly, it's an exciting time and every single Evertonian should know that he (Moshiri) is someone who knows our football club, someone who is a very strong addition and won't bring anything other than getting Everton to where we belong."
Everton are without midfielder Muhamed Besic for the trip to Villa, while Tyias Browning and Tony Hibbert remain out.
Villa have doubts over the fitness of Jack Grealish and Adama Traore, while Carlos Sanchez, Libor Kozak and Jordan Amavi remain out. However, centre-forward Rudy Gestede is fit to start after making his return from injury as a substitute against Stoke City, where he assisted on Villa's late goal - albeit with a handball that went unnoticed by the match officials.
Villa have won just two of their 14 home matches this season (2-4-7), whereas Everton have lost just one in 13 away from home (4-7-1) and are unbeaten in their last seven (2-5-0) in league play outside Goodison Park.
Everton striker Romelu Lukaku has scored five goals in his four games against Villa for the Merseysiders, while Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor has scored seven Premier League goals against the Toffees in his career - more than he has managed against any other club.
Villa have won just one of their last 10 league meetings (1-4-5) with Everton. The Toffees strolled to a 4-0 victory in the reverse fixture in November, as Ross Barkley had a first-half brace and Lukaku completed his two-goal effort just shy of the hour mark.