Steven Pienaar limped off against United and faces a late fitness test before the visit of Aston Villa
No one easily forgets what it's like to visit or play at Goodison Park but Everton's supporters and players could be forgiven if they were starting to... By the time Aston Villa roll into town this weekend for the latest chapter in English football's most-played fixture, it will be almost a month since the Blues last played on home turf and it will be November before they complete a seven-game sequence in which six were away from home.
It's the kind of schedule that is pregnant with opportunity — pick up valuable wins on the road before returning to home to build on those results — but the reality is that Everton will return hoping to find solace and inspiration in the comforts of more familiar surroundings as they look for what would be only their second Premier League win in eight this season.
A valuable point from Krasnodar and the avoidance of derby misery at Anfield thanks to Phil Jagielka's stunning equaliser were the bright spots from those four successive away matches, but a sorry loss at Swansea signalled another premature exit from the League Cup while injury was added to the insult of defeat against Manchester United when John Stones suffered a serious ankle injury that looks likely to keep him out until at least Christmas.
It means that Roberto Martinez will again need to draw on what squad depth he has this weekend, particularly in defence. Stones's absence, of course, necessitates a change at centre-half where Sylvain Distin is back in contention after his hiatus following the Swansea game while Antolin Alcaraz, his partner at the Liberty Stadium where the Blues went down 3-0 four weeks ago, offers another option alongside captain Phil Jagielka.
The international break has afforded Tony Hibbert some rest after the veteran was called upon to start four successive games in Coleman's absence but, should the Irishman miss out again, there is scope for blooding young Tyias Browning following two impressive cameos as a substitute in the cauldrons of Anfield and Old Trafford recently.
In midfield, much will depend on the fitness of three players who will undergo late fitness tests before the manager names his team to face Paul Lambert's Villains. James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman have both been battling muscle injuries in recent weeks but are close to being ready for selection, while Steven Pienaar aggravated the thigh problem that has dogged him for most of the season at Old Trafford. Martinez indicated in his press conference that all three should be fit for the trip to Lille next Thursday but remain slight doubts for this weekend.
Muhamed Besic or Darron Gibson are the obvious deputies for McCarthy should he miss out, while Leon Osman would be the most likely choice to come in for Pienaar if he is injured given that Aiden McGeady has filled the void left by Kevin Mirallas, although Bryan Oviedo is also in the mix for that left-sided berth.
Of course, there is the possibility that Ross Barkley could make an early return to the first team for his first appearance of 2014-15 following a medial knee ligament injury, but you'd think it would be as a substitute rather than as a starter given the length of his layoff and his lack of match fitness.
Up front, Romelu Lukaku's quest for full match fitness makes him a likely starter and Steven Naismith's goalscoring form has made him an almost automatic choice in the starting XI when Martinez isn't employing his player-rotation policy — one that seems less necessary now that Everton have one less competition to worry about.
After making a terrific start to the season, one that earned Lambert an extended contract, Aston Villa have gone off the boil somewhat in recent weeks and have now lost three straight since their last visit to Merseyside, a 1-0 win at Liverpool on 13 September. Nevertheless, they are four points and seven places better off than the Toffees coming into this fixture and could be boosted by a first start since March for Christian Benteke, the Midlanders' own Belgian hotshot who has now recovered from a ruptured Achilles.
They will be without Fabian Delph and Philippe Senderos could be deprived of a return to Goodison by a thigh injury but the much-improved Ron Vlaar returns following a calf problem thereby ensuring that Villa will be a tough nut to crack for an Everton side that has found goals and creativity hard to come by recently. Hopefully, the intensity that has been lacking in that string of away matches will return now that the boys are back on home turf where they can dictate proceedings more readily.
The next four Premier League matchups against Burnley, Swansea, West Ham and Sunderland — two of them at home — offer the chance for Martinez's side to build up a head of steam and start accumulating points before the next tough trip at White Hart Lane at the end of next month. Though they currently sit 17th in the table, the Blues are only five points off the top four and a run of good results could markedly improve the outlook on what has been a disappointing campaign so far.
Kick off: 3pm
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Full coverage: ToffeeWeb Match Reports
Reader Comments (57)
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1 Posted 17/10/2014 at 19:54:35
2 Posted 17/10/2014 at 19:55:29
Nothing like a 3pm Saturday kick off, I get that empty feeling when we are not playing then.
3 Posted 17/10/2014 at 20:04:59
4 Posted 17/10/2014 at 19:57:30
I am slightly dreading this game to be honest. A huge game for Lukaku in front of the home fans as he must step up to the plate.
Hopefully Barkley will come off the bench and get some game time under his belt, he might just spark our season into life?
5 Posted 17/10/2014 at 20:10:59
A couple weeks back, I noticed that BentekeÂs return was timed perfectly to coincide playing against us. Of course it is. I just hope he is as off it as his fellow Belgian. 10 months out, he should be damn rusty!
Somehow these idiots always seem to play us better at Goodison than at Villa Park, but I am confident..........until I remember that Stonesy is hobbled. Godspeed John Boy. LetÂs try this:
Coleman Jagielka Alcaraz Baines
McGeady Naismith Oviedo
Subs: Robles, Osman, EtoÂo, Distin, Atsu, Barkley, Hibbert
6 Posted 17/10/2014 at 20:10:47
7 Posted 17/10/2014 at 20:06:57
As silly as it sounds, our dreadful start to the season wonÂt have done too much damage to our league campaign if we can start recapturing our form of last season. All our closest rivals ie. Man Utd, Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal have all being struggling for form thus far and we only sit 5 points behind 4th place. Put a run together between now and the new year... and we can be right in the mix again... but we must start by winning tomorrow.
Hopefully, Coleman and McCarthy will be fit as they are very influential to the way we play. I would go with Besic instead of Barry to give us that extra bit of energy in midfield against a very hard working Villa side.
I would love to see Browning start in his preferred CB position but I suspect RM will either go with Distin or Alcaraz.
My team to face Aston Villa:
Coleman Jagielka Browning Baines
McGeady Naismith Pienaar
8 Posted 17/10/2014 at 20:31:48
9 Posted 17/10/2014 at 20:46:26
10 Posted 17/10/2014 at 21:13:42
That would give us strength on the ball and goalscoring capability with Ross, Lukaku (or Eto) and Nais switching it around up front.
11 Posted 17/10/2014 at 22:15:03
Obviously injuries have played their part in that but we still arenÂt creating that many chances. Albeit as you pointed out the majority of games have been away so that puts it a little into perspective. WeÂve had tough fixtures to start with now weÂve got a run of games were weÂd expect to pick up points. But we need them key players back.
I do know this: if we leak 3 or 4 tomorrow, can you imagine the grief the back four are going to get on here. IÂd be delighted with a 1-0 win myself. HereÂs hoping...
12 Posted 17/10/2014 at 23:30:45
13 Posted 18/10/2014 at 00:29:35
14 Posted 18/10/2014 at 01:43:09
I would pick the same team as Mark:
Coleman Jagielka Browning Baines
McGeady Naismith Pienaar
Browning should start. Distin/Alcaraz is a regressive step, neither have been effective for a long time.
EtoÂo over Lukaku because he is just a better player.
15 Posted 18/10/2014 at 02:26:15
16 Posted 18/10/2014 at 04:26:12
17 Posted 18/10/2014 at 07:02:14
Five points from fourth spot or 17th position, whatever way you want to look at it, itÂs time the players turned up and showed some balls.
Player for player, there are not many Villa players that you would pick over ours.
Hutton is a weak link at right back, he is fine going forward but terrible defensively, I am sure Baines must be looking forward to going against him.
Might not be too pretty at times, but I think we will win 2-1, with a late, late winner.
LetÂs do this.
18 Posted 18/10/2014 at 07:24:05
19 Posted 18/10/2014 at 07:49:04
LetÂs get this season going......properly....
20 Posted 18/10/2014 at 08:18:57
21 Posted 18/10/2014 at 08:54:30
22 Posted 18/10/2014 at 08:59:03
I am neither of the pessimistic persuasion, itÂs just that our performances to date, have in the most part, been disjointed with all too few moments of quality.
Needless to say, that the injury situation has not helped in any way, shape, or form either, but players who you would expect better from, have let the team down at crucial times.
They say that winning breeds confidence, and to a degree, becomes a habit. I believe that losing too is the direct opposite, and teams would certainly tread carefully against us, when on a winning streak, but believe there is three points up for grabs when playing poorly.
I sincerely hope that my trepidation is proved wrong, and today is the springboard for the season ahead.
23 Posted 18/10/2014 at 09:07:26
It's becoming a potentially crucial period over the next few weeks, although itÂs relatively early, we canÂt say the same in another month or so and we need to start winning more matches in this period to get where we need to be.
Not winning can become a bad habit itself.
24 Posted 18/10/2014 at 10:12:36
25 Posted 18/10/2014 at 10:22:43
26 Posted 18/10/2014 at 10:28:57
Just for once, use your best strikers together.
27 Posted 18/10/2014 at 10:29:48
We need to re inject some urgency in to our play and fight for everything! Less of the pretty stuff and more nasty please. IÂll take a one-nil off someoneÂs backside to get this season going.
Get em fired up Bobby and get the crowd going and weÂll win it.
28 Posted 18/10/2014 at 10:48:48
Besic or Barry? Not sure. I can definitely see something in Besic and think that he seems to be growing with every minute on the field. A lot find the Premier League hard to find the pace but he seems to be doing it quickly.
And Browning with Jags... Why not, heÂs a talented confident young man and he again will only get better and better given the confidence of the manager and game time.
Please today boys. Please.
29 Posted 18/10/2014 at 10:54:14
Would love to see Besic start and Rom and Sam up front together.
We must be careful of Villa on the break. Holding the ball and playing in their half is fine so long as we have an intact defence.
Team selection today will be very interesting.
30 Posted 18/10/2014 at 11:06:38
31 Posted 18/10/2014 at 11:02:14
32 Posted 18/10/2014 at 11:14:19
If you look at comparisons with other youngsters given the chance at rival teams. Players like Andros Townsend and Harry Kane, Blackett. Sterling, Shaw, Ward-Prowse.
However, is it not a case that these players arenÂt good enough or seen as good enough by the manager.
I do have the opinion though that sometimes, if they are thrown in at the deep end they give that bit extra and shine. IÂd love to see players like Browning etc given some game time and even the likes of George Green... A massive massive talent and why not have him on the bench and let him have the odd ten or fifteen minutes (situation permitting)
Look at what Rooney did.... Green is as good.
33 Posted 18/10/2014 at 11:50:04
34 Posted 18/10/2014 at 12:00:16
35 Posted 18/10/2014 at 12:02:16
36 Posted 18/10/2014 at 11:22:07
37 Posted 18/10/2014 at 11:57:35
This would be a 4-3-1-2 formation with Pienaar behind the front 2 and Barkley to be introduced after the break. I feel this would give us our defensive stability back and also getting 2 forwards playing together.
With Mirallas out for a while, I donÂt trust the other wingers yet. When Barkley is fit, I would like to see him replace Barry or Besic in that line up for more creativeness from midfield. With our full backs bombing on, I feel this may be the way forward until Mirallas is back fit.
38 Posted 18/10/2014 at 12:11:23
39 Posted 18/10/2014 at 12:07:00
I donÂt know if the youngsters you mentioned are good enough, but talent should be the criteria not age. You mention Garbutt but are you really suggesting that he replaces the current England full back, that would put enormous pressure on the kid. Also would not Oviedo be ahead of him in the pecking order.
I know you can't always pick and choose when you can play youngsters but I would think they would have more chance of coming into a team that is winning than one that is struggling as we are at present.
40 Posted 18/10/2014 at 12:14:00
41 Posted 18/10/2014 at 12:29:59
42 Posted 18/10/2014 at 13:00:44
43 Posted 18/10/2014 at 12:53:01
HeÂs from Macclesfield, definitely a boyhood red.
Apart from that, Everton will win.
44 Posted 18/10/2014 at 12:18:33
45 Posted 18/10/2014 at 12:59:14
Come on, you Blue Men... make my weekend a happy one. COYB!
46 Posted 18/10/2014 at 13:12:30
47 Posted 18/10/2014 at 12:50:48
Not to mention giving Browning his debut in an Anfield derby. Hmm. I think I trust the manager on when youngsters get blooded. You canÂt just throw them in willy nilly.
As for today, a win would give us a great boost going in to two games we should be winning. We would fly up the table with three wins in a row.
48 Posted 18/10/2014 at 13:30:27
Coleman Jags Alcaraz Baines
Naismith EtoÂo Oviedo
EtoÂo just behind Lukaku. Besic and McCarthy putting in an effort worthy of the gods.
I donÂt give a shit who starts though. I donÂt give a shit how pretty we play. All I care about is the 3 points. Any way, shape, or form. We have to get moving in the right direction.
49 Posted 18/10/2014 at 13:35:24
50 Posted 18/10/2014 at 14:01:58
51 Posted 18/10/2014 at 14:05:05
52 Posted 18/10/2014 at 14:06:47
Subs: Robles, Hibbert, Gibson, Besic, Pienaar, McGeady, Eto'o
53 Posted 18/10/2014 at 14:16:21
54 Posted 18/10/2014 at 14:15:39
55 Posted 18/10/2014 at 14:18:09
LetÂs just pray for three points.
56 Posted 18/10/2014 at 14:21:01
57 Posted 18/10/2014 at 14:27:10
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