Aston Villa's plight for Premier League survival continues against Everton on Thursday evening, as Dean Smith's side travel to Goodison Park.
A second Premier League victory since New Year's Day against Crystal Palace on Saturday provided a much-needed boost for Aston Villa, but they still sit four points from safety with just three games left.
A trio of uninspiring performances has almost entirely stripped any meaning from the remainder of Everton's season. Carlo Ancelotti's side are ensconced in mid-table mediocrity - a position which will frustrate an ambitious ownership but is desperately envied by their upcoming opponents.
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? l “Yerry had a muscular problem. Unfortunately, when you only have two days to recover, the player doesn’t recover properly and to have an injury like this can happen.”— Everton (@Everton) July 13, 2020
?️ @MrAncelotti on the fitness of Yerry Mina, Mason Holgate and @aftgomes ahead of #EVEAVL ?
Everton will be boosted by the return to fitness of Mason Holgate, who has been a staple of Everton's defence since Ancelotti's arrival, after he was withdrawn during the 1-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur earlier in July. Fellow centre-back Yerry Mina limped off half an hour into the club's last outing but could still be available on Thursday.
A last-minute injury to Kortney Hause in the pre-match warm-up of Aston Villa's clash with Crystal Palace last time out threw their backline into disarray. Left-back Neil Taylor was then forced off with an injury in the first half. Ezri Konsa filled in at centre-back for Hause while Matt Targett replaced Taylor that afternoon.
Villa kept only their second Premier League clean sheet of 2020 that game and could deploy the same defence against Everton.
Everton: Pickford; Coleman, Keane, Holgate, Digne; Sidibé, Davies, Gomes, Gordon; Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison.
Aston Villa: Reina; Elmohamady, Konsa, Mings, Targett; Hourihane, Douglas Luiz, McGinn; Trezeguet, Samatta, Grealish.
Everton began the Premier League restart brightly, securing seven points from their first three games, including a respectable - if forgettable - Merseyside derby draw. However, two defeats from the next trio of matches has all but deflated that faint optimism as Everton's campaign threatens to fizzle out.
Villa's three points against Palace were vital as fellow strugglers Bournemouth, West Ham and Watford all claimed victory to stoke the flames of the relegation battle.
Summer signing Trezeguet scored his first Premier League goals since the start of December on the weekend, but Aston Villa's key man Jack Grealish is yet to register a goal or assist following football's return from the coronavirus-induced hiatus.
Here's how each side has fared in their last five matches.
Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-0 Everton (12/7)
Everton 1-1 Southampton (9/7)
Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Everton (6/7)
Everton 2-1 Leicester City (1/7)
Norwich City 0-1 Everton (24/6)
Aston Villa 2-0 Crystal Palace (12/7)
Aston Villa 0-3 Manchester United (9/7)
Liverpool 2-0 Aston Villa (5/7)
Aston Villa 0-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers (27/6)
Newcastle United 1-1 Aston Villa (24/6)
Aston Villa go into Thursday's match four points from safety with the remaining games rapidly dwindling while Everton have comparatively little to play.
This remains the most-played league fixture in English football but their 204th meeting could be instrumental in putting the rivalry on hold for at least 12 months.
If Everton deliver the same listless performances that have become commonplace of late, a Villa side showing some signs of resistance will capitalise. If Grealish rediscovers his post-pandemic form, they might still prevail even if the Toffees do improve.
Prediction: Everton 0-1 Aston Villa
Source : 90min