Everton begin life after Rafael Benitez by hosting an in-form Aston Villa side at Goodison Park, hoping to improve their fortunes in the Premier League.

A shock 2-1 loss to relegation battlers Norwich City sealed Rafael Benitez’s fate as the Everton boss. After months of discontent, the fans finally got their wish and seemed happy to see the back of the former Liverpool manager. The Toffees are planning for the future and will hope to appoint a more solid tactician.

Duncan Ferguson’s first task as caretaker manager will be to improve results immediately. Everton are close to the relegation zone as things stand, with only six points separating them from 18th-placed Norwich.

Ferguson will have to coach his team using a different strategy for the time being and hope to get a result against an in-form Aston Villa side. The caretaker manager has managed such a task in the past and will be happy to do so again, although Wayne Rooney, Jose Mourinho, Roberto Martinez and Frank Lampard are linked with the vacant manager’s post.

Meanwhile, coming into this game, Aston Villa are in contrasting form compared to Everton. Having convincingly beaten Saturday’s opponents in the reverse fixture, that game turned out to be one of the top performances under former boss Dean Smith.

Aston Villa have looked different since Steven Gerrard took over from Smith. The former Rangers boss has instilled a new belief in the squad, with the players responding well to the Liverpool legend’s high-intensity methods.

The fightback against Manchester United was proof enough of their improving quality. New signing Philippe Coutinho and youngster Jacob Ramsey turned the game around after going 2-0 down to finish the match at 2-2, with each player getting a goal and an assist. They will be hoping to do better against Everton and target all three points on Saturday.

Team News & Tactics

Everton

There are many issues on the team news front in the Everton squad, with the club potentially missing up to seven players. Alex Iwobi remains away with Nigeria at the Africa Cup of Nations. Tom Davies and Fabian Davies are injured, but Allan is back in contention, although he might only be considered for a place on the bench.

New loan signing Anwar El-Ghazi is unavailable to play against his parent club, while Jarrad Branthwaite is still doubtful for the match. Ferguson will be happy with his side’s recent injury reports. Dominic Calvert-Lewin continues to prove his fitness after he was fit enough to start against Norwich City.

Ferguson could tweak his backline and replace Seamus Coleman with Ben Godfrey at right-back, with Yerry Mina coming into the heart of the Everton defence. Michael Keane and new arrival Vitaliy Mykolenko will keep their places on the left side.

Abdoulaye Doucoure and Andre Gomes are likely to play in the central midfield positions, with Anthony Gordon and Demarai Gray the most viable choice on the wings. Richarlison is in line to return to the starting lineup, with Salomon Rondon likely to make way for the Brazilian. Calvert-Lewin, who has been improving his fitness, will have another go at leading the attack.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Pickford; Godfrey, Mina, Keane, Mykolenko; Gordon, Doucoure, Gomes, Gray; Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison

Aston Villa

Aston Villa could potentially have their fair share of absentees for this clash, with at least six players in danger of missing out. While Trezeguet and Bertrand Traore are away at the Africa Cup of Nations, Ezri Konsa, who was taken off at half-time against Manchester United, remains doubtful.

Marvelous Nakamba and Leon Bailey continue to recuperate in the treatment room and remain out of contention against Everton. There is positive news too, with John McGinn back available after serving a one-game ban. The Scot could come in straight into the starting lineup.

There will also be an immediate return to Goodison Park for Lucas Digne, who recently left Everton. The Frenchman will be hoping to answer his critics and former manager Rafael Benitez with a massive performance at Goodison Park.

Konsa, if fit, should ideally start at the heart of the Aston Villa defence, but Kortney Hause could get a run in the side in his place. Tyrone Mings will retain his place at the back, with Digne and Matty Cash playing as the full-backs.

A midfield trio of McGinn, Douglas Luiz and the impressive Jacob Ramsey could be the outcome of Gerrard’s selection. Ollie Watkins should lead the line for Aston Villa, with Gerrard keeping Danny Ings on the bench to accommodate the impressive Coutinho. Emiliano Buendia is expected to keep his place on the right side of the Aston Villa attack.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Digne; McGinn, Luiz, Ramsey; Buendia, Watkins, Coutinho

Key Stats

  • Everton have failed to win 12 of their last 13 matches in the Premier League.
  • Everton have recorded just one win in six Premier League games at Goodison Park.
  • Aston Villa have conceded at least two goals in each of their last three matches in the Premier League.
  • Aston Villa are unbeaten in their last five matches against Everton in all competitions.
  • Aston Villa have not secured a top-flight double against Everton since the 2000/01 season.

Player to Watch

Philippe Coutinho

Embed from Getty Images

After announcing himself with a sensational cameo performance against Manchester United, all eyes will be firmly fixed on the Brazilian. On any other day, Aston Villa might have given up while trailing 2-0, but the quality on display from Coutinho tends to make a difference, and that showed in the final scoreline.

Coutinho might have produced a brilliant performance to kick-start his loan move, but he needs to be consistent over many games if Aston Villa are to harbour ambitions to finish in the European qualification places. Still, their primary target is to bring about regular positive results, and they will look towards the Brazilian to achieve that goal.

Prediction

Everton 1-3 Aston Villa

The contrasting forms of both sides tell the story when it comes to predicting the outcome. On the one hand, we have Aston Villa, who look increasingly dangerous by the day and could be on course to take advantage of Everton’s problems. On the other hand, the Toffees desperately need positive results to improve the mood in their camp.

Aston Villa are primed to collect all three points and could even score more than two goals. Everton look like a team capable of scoring the odd goal, but that won’t be enough against Steven Gerrard’s side. Expect Villa to take a victory from this clash with ease, with the Toffees’ struggles set to continue.

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