With 16 points from the last 18, punctuated by an emphatic 3-0 win over Manchester United at Goodison Park last Sunday, Everton's late-season recovery — and the hope it inspires for a better 2015-16 campaign — continues.
Top of the form table for the past six matches, the Blues travel to an Aston Villa side that has been rejuvenated somewhat by new manager Tim Sherwood but still remains in significant relegation danger coming into the weekend. The Villains sit just two points above 18th-placed Sunderland, who have a game in hand, and one point above Leicester City who have won four of their last five to give themselves a great chance of beating the drop themselves.
Perhaps in part due to the distraction of their FA Cup run, which has led them to a date in the Final with Arsenal later this month, the Midlanders have only won one of their last four at home and that, combined with Everton's excellent recent record at Villa Park, could mean they approach this meeting with the Blues with a good deal of trepidation.
Roberto Martinez's team have been playing with a renewed vigour in r recent weeks and were it not for a sloppy last half hour against Swansea three weeks ago, they might have won six on the bounce. A combination of the pressure having been lifted by their move away from the drop zone and a better mix of possession and direct passing has lifted the mood and improved results since the awful 2-0 defeat at Stoke in early March.
The Blues have also benefited from a consistent line-up in recent weeks and with eighth place still a possibility with four matches to go, the manager might not feel moved to make too many changes to the side that started against United.
If there are to be any changes, they're more likely to made in the attacking midfield / supporting attack role where Kevin Mirallas and Leon Osman have rotated in recent games and the likes of Steven Naismith, Arouna Kone and Aiden McGeady are waiting in the wings.
Romelu Lukaku is likely to continue up front after making his first start in a month last weekend Martinez's apparent desire to give Ross Barkley an extended run in the line-up to rebuild some of his confidence, it's probable that he will keep his place, too.
Everton are unbeaten in their last three games on Villa's soil and though Sherwood's defence remains porous at times, this promises to be a sterner test for the Blues than their last two visits where they won by a comfortable two-goal margin.
They demonstrated against Liverpool in the cup semi-final that they can cause problems when they're up for it, particularly if they can provide striker Christian Benteke with service, but Martinez will travel in confidence given his defence's excellent performances in recent weeks.
Kick off: 3pm
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Full details: ToffeeWeb Match Reports
Reader Comments (49)
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1 Posted 01/05/2015 at 07:22:28
Also, I would really like to see Lukaku hit the twenty goal mark before the end of the season as well. For his development, confidence and being able to say we have a twenty goal a season striker, it would be excellent.
2 Posted 01/05/2015 at 08:39:59
I'd love us to win this and put another nail in their coffin because I can't stand that arrogant fucker Sherwood. The media have made him out to be some kind of messiah when he clearly isnÂt. ItÂll be tough but I think weÂve got a great chance of winning this. Our confidence will be sky high after last Sunday. More of the same, please!
3 Posted 01/05/2015 at 09:36:19
4 Posted 01/05/2015 at 09:40:48
If we play the same team we did Sunday, we will be very hard to beat. Lukaku has yet to score since his injury and we can expect him to be showing more match practice sharpness. Lawro (shit shirts) says we will lose 2-1 (on the Beeb website). Let's bite his keyboards fingers off with a resounding victory. COYB!
5 Posted 01/05/2015 at 09:43:51
I think a point at best, itÂs probably wishful thinking that we will reach the heights of last SundayÂs mauling of Man Utd, that was at Goodison of course and tomorrow the boot might be on the other foot. Villa Park will likely be rocking, itÂs their first home game since they got to the Cup Final.
I suppose itÂs another good test of our players' character, though, and it will be interesting to see how we turn up and play our football.
In general, we have struggled to win many away games this season so it would be nice to add one more to our rather meagre total so far of just four.
6 Posted 01/05/2015 at 10:09:13
It ought to give him some confidence though having the European goals and yes he is still on 18 in all competitions.
Still having said that, there wonÂt be any European matches next season so he needs to work hard at scoring more league goals.
I have my feelings we may get a narrow defeat tomorrow (sorry to agree with shit shirts Lawro) but I just think VillaÂs need might be greater on the day.
7 Posted 01/05/2015 at 10:42:01
He might also be a better player next season as it appears heÂs learnt how to head a ball. (What happened there?)
8 Posted 01/05/2015 at 10:37:48
9 Posted 01/05/2015 at 10:56:10
I can also remember about 7 years ago we equalized in extra time, only to see Ashley Young score the winner. Anyways, we play away from home, that actually might benefit us as Villa will give away plenty of room at the back.
10 Posted 01/05/2015 at 11:03:51
11 Posted 01/05/2015 at 11:22:58
2-1 win hopefully.
12 Posted 01/05/2015 at 12:03:32
If we are looking for signs of a better season next time around, we have to go to places where teams have been struggling and look to win. ItÂs about time that Everton started behaving like a top-six team rather than an over-achieving mid-table side.
13 Posted 01/05/2015 at 15:19:14
IÂve no idea what their run-in is after tomorrow but SunderlandÂs is absolutely awful so I think they will still be a Premier League side come the FA Cup Final, regardless of this result.
14 Posted 01/05/2015 at 15:26:22
That was until we beat them 4-0; there was an announcement after about 25 minst hat Villa fans would have to wait till half-time to buy a programme... just afterwards, we went two-nil up and the Villa fans burst into a chorus of:
Shove yer programmes
Shove yer programmes
Shove yer programmes up yer arse.....
Shoooove yer programmes up your aaaaarrrrse
Five minutes later, it was 3-0 and one of the Villa fans lead a conga down to the concourse, all singing...
LetÂs all buy a programme....
Funny that. Since then, I donÂt mind villa. Plus they give Lescott dog's abuse.
15 Posted 01/05/2015 at 15:35:31
16 Posted 01/05/2015 at 17:39:01
17 Posted 01/05/2015 at 18:57:07
18 Posted 01/05/2015 at 19:03:42
19 Posted 01/05/2015 at 19:19:34
20 Posted 01/05/2015 at 19:26:57
21 Posted 01/05/2015 at 19:37:11
22 Posted 01/05/2015 at 19:38:14
If we can resist the pressure from the Villa crowd and motivate ourselves then that is a sign that we may be developing the sort of mental hardness under Martinez that makes a repeat of this season less likely.
23 Posted 01/05/2015 at 20:09:09
24 Posted 01/05/2015 at 20:05:37
Okay, we can't win anything, but the manager and the players only have four more opportunities to entertain us. Let's hope they take them
25 Posted 01/05/2015 at 22:31:59
Sunderland is the new Wigan as they have escaped it all 5 years IÂve been watching. QPR are from London and they canÂt get it right with that advantage and Newcastle Â– Ashley, 'nuff said.
26 Posted 01/05/2015 at 23:55:52
Anyway, I can only see a draw or loss tomorrow. They will be up for it knowing a win will be a massive boost to staying up. Pressure may be off for us but theyÂll want it more and be at home.
27 Posted 02/05/2015 at 00:10:47
28 Posted 02/05/2015 at 00:37:32
29 Posted 02/05/2015 at 01:10:34
30 Posted 02/05/2015 at 01:23:54
I live in Worcester, MA, and my three children prefer to live in Boston and pay rent rather than live with me in Worcester because of the night life in Boston. They all love me but I canÂt compete with the Boston scene.
31 Posted 02/05/2015 at 07:35:28
Villa have a very real chance of doing a Wigan this season. FA Cup and relegation.
32 Posted 02/05/2015 at 08:36:46
I am not confident weÂll win this as theyÂll be fighting for every ball and we have not that much to play for and of course theyÂre at home. They were also very unlucky against Man City.
Draw or narrow defeat for me, then our players will start booking their summer hols.
33 Posted 02/05/2015 at 08:30:30
Villa are a traditional club with a quality stadium, one with character, and I personally always enjoy both the journey there and the time I spend at the stadium; they also donÂt just stick the away section in some far flung corner.
As I say, itÂs nice to see a club that still retains its soul and character. IÂm quite looking forward to seeing Bournemouth in the Premier League, itÂs a new team and, letÂs be honest, after the rollercoaster they have been on with Eddie Howe, they deserve it.
I hope one day to see a few of the other established clubs in the Premier League again, the likes of NottÂm Forest or Sheffield Wednesday.
34 Posted 02/05/2015 at 09:56:27
However, if we do wish to progress and push through the glass ceiling, we need to start winning these games, hopefully starting today.
35 Posted 02/05/2015 at 11:39:14
If we start putting together some decent performances as well as getting results, then it can be a springboard for continuity for next season. Just picking up lucky wins (Man Utd win was deserved) without the performance is not good enough and will be of no benefit going into the new season. We need to start playing well, if only to convince ourselves that we can, and put a bit of belief and confidence back into the players which has been seeping out of them all season.
36 Posted 02/05/2015 at 11:58:10
37 Posted 02/05/2015 at 12:13:15
First goal is very important they will be on a high reaching the cup final, but if we score first and our usual great away following get behind us we should go on to win.
2-0 would do me.
38 Posted 02/05/2015 at 12:17:43
Mike C, I knew you were in Massachusetts but not in Worcester (Wuuusta). My dad played hoops at Holy Cross way back when, in the 1960s I guess. I actually went to basketball camp there a few years when I was a kid. Nice people up there! Those accents though....
39 Posted 02/05/2015 at 12:21:11
40 Posted 02/05/2015 at 12:29:06
I think if we really concentrate on not letting them in (plenty of hard work behind the ball and quick breaks) nerves could eventually play a part.
I would love us to go into the game with the idea/plan of using our present position and Âmind-setÂ (relaxed, confident, safe) to undermine theirs.
And what is theirs?
Well yes theyÂre in the cup final and their performances have definitely improved, but theyÂre only two points off Sunderland who have a game in hand (albeit Arsenal away).
Fact is, despite SherwoodÂs positivity, their reality will be nerves (probably not helped by a nervy home crowd).
We should recognise it and plan to exploit it.
Up the Toffees!
41 Posted 02/05/2015 at 13:27:36
No predictions on score but we have plenty of reasons to be cheerful.
42 Posted 02/05/2015 at 13:56:40
43 Posted 02/05/2015 at 14:07:53
44 Posted 02/05/2015 at 14:04:52
So does that mean everything about todays game will be identical in every way?
What a strange statement!
46 Posted 02/05/2015 at 14:30:46
#EFC team v #AVFC - Howard, Coleman, Baines, Stones, Jagielka, McCarthy, Barry, Naismith, Mirallas, Lennon, Lukaku
Everton substitutes: Joel, McGeady, Kone, Besic, Barkley, Osman, Alcaraz.
47 Posted 02/05/2015 at 14:26:59
The rest looks okay but you only need one wrong choice in this league and with what's at stake to Villa, to give the game away. Not happy here. A game of wasted opportunities could be coming up.
48 Posted 02/05/2015 at 14:41:29
49 Posted 02/05/2015 at 14:43:18
Coleman Jagielka Stones Baines
50 Posted 02/05/2015 at 20:32:44
I am not going to ignorantly forget the quality of last weekÂs mauling of Manchester United but equally I canÂt simply forget the dross that has gone on before it from August right through to March. I canÂt simply forget sitting through Southampton and Hull away, or being totally outfought twice by Stoke or the Newcastle horror show at Christmas, all capped off by the capitulation in Kiev.
For me, the last few weeks has simply clouded our judgments slightly and papered over some gaping cracks in the foundations of Everton FC under Martinez. It's like Martinez never ever learns anything. Why would you YET AGAIN change a winning team that would have been buzzing from last Sunday?
The man has continually chopped and changed his teams all season; if that continues into next season, then how you can ever get confidence from continuity and consistency??
I personally donÂt think Martinez has a clue what his best team is, itÂs almost like even when we get the odd decent win, he still feels the need to tinker with things which then usually results in ballsing it up big style.
IÂm struggling to see how things are going to drastically improve from this season unless he learns how to manage the club properly. He still struggles to motivate the team; only against United last week have we shown anything like the correct application starting a match on the front foot.
We canÂt afford to slacked off in the last three games because we are going to lose our top half place and thatÂs a few million pounds plus it's also a lot harder to be attractive to good players finishing 11th or 12th.
All said and done, though, itÂs been a shite shite season.
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