Aston Villa continue the search for their first Premier League points of the 2019/20 season with a home fixture against Everton on Friday night.
The Villans have fallen to defeat in their first two games of the new campaign after securing promotion back to the top-flight via a playoff final victory over Derby County in May.
Everton's beginning to the year has been far more encouraging, with the Toffees currently unbeaten and sitting on four points. They have hardly been prolific - Bernard collected their only goal of the season against Watford last weekend - though supporters will be pleased to see Marco Silva's recruits show solidity in defence.
Check out 90min's preview of the game at Goodison Park below.
Where to Watch
|When Is Kick Off?||Friday 23 August|
|What Time Is Kick Off?||20:00 (BST)|
|Where Is it Played?||Villa Park|
|TV Channel/Live Stream?||Sky Sports Main Event|
Where to Buy Tickets
Tickets for the game are, as ever, available on both teams' official club websites, though membership is required in order to purchase. In terms of resale, both teams provide the option to make season tickets available for others to use, if a supporter is unable to attend the game themselves.
There will be no Villa debut for new signing Kortney Hause, who is still receiving treatment for an ankle injury. The former Wolverhampton Wanderers defender is joined on the sidelines by fellow centre-back James Chester, with the Welshman nursing a thigh problem.
Smith is also deprived of the services of forward Jonathan Kodjia. An ankle complaint prevents the 29-year-old from making his maiden Premier League appearance, whilst opposition midfielder Fabian Delph may have to wait a while longer for his first competitive outing for Everton.
The England international is struggling with a groin strain, but could still be fit for Friday night's clash. The same is true of Toffees left-back pairing Lucas Digne and Leighton Baines, though Morgan Schneiderlin will definitely be available after serving a one-game suspension.
|Aston Villa||Heaton; Elmohamady, Engels, Mings, Taylor; Luiz, McGinn, Grealish; Trezeguet, El Ghazi, Wesley.|
|Everton||Pickford; Coleman, Keane, Mina, Digne; Gbamin, Gomes; Richarlison, Sigurdsson, Bernard; Kean.|
Head to Head Record
As two bastions of English football, Villa and Everton have met on many occasions over the course of history. The overall record is well balanced, with the latter collecting two more wins than their opponents, who have secured the victory 80 times.
However, the Merseysiders have had much the better of it in the last decade. The Midlands side have beaten the Toffees just twice in their 16 most recent meetings and have lost five of the last six.
A clinical performance from Everton left Villa staring relegation dead in the face when these two last locked horns. Ramiro Funes Mori, Aaron Lennon and Romelu Lukaku gave the visitors a three-goal advantage, with a late Rudy Gestede
Smith's men were far from a shambles in their 3-1 loss to Tottenham, yet they showed a lack of organisation in the closing stages as Spurs mounted a comeback to steal the points.
When pressurised by the Lilywhites, Villa crumbled and allowed a lead to slip through their fingers. That weak underbelly was exposed once more as the Cherries left Birmingham with a 2-1 victory on Saturday.
Douglas Luiz scored a peach of a goal against the Seasiders as he arrowed a long-range effort beyond the clutches of Aaron Ramsdale and his side may need another stunner to overcome Everton.
In case you missed it, Douglas Luiz scored an absolute screamer today! — NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) August 18, 2019
Alright, see you all tomorrow pic.twitter.com/B5We4vAoAR
Jordan Pickford has been a standout figure for Silva, keeping two clean sheets in the Toffees' first two matches of the year.
Nevertheless, they must bring more accuracy to their shooting after letting numerous opportunities slip them by versus Watford and Crystal Palace.
Here's how the two teams got on in their last five matches:
|Walsall 1-5 Aston Villa (24/7)||Monaco 0-1 Everton (19/7)|
|Charlton Athletic 1-4 Aston Villa (27/7)||Wigan Athletic 0-0 Everton (24/7)|
|Red Bull Leipzig 1-3 Aston Villa (3/8)||Werder Bremen 0-0 Everton (3/8)|
|Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Aston Villa (10/8)||Crystal Palace 0-0 Everton (10/8)|
|Aston Villa 1-2 Bournemouth (17/8)||Everton 1-0 Watford (17/8)|
Villa boss Smith knows the importance of this fixture, because even though his squad will still be buoyant following a successful summer of recruitment, that bubble can burst very quickly.
Should they lose to Everton, concerns about the abilities of certain signings will be raised, much like what happened with Fulham last term. Once the team doubt themselves and confidence is sapped, a slump is very easy.
A draw is more than acceptable for Villa; they should aim for solidity in defence and energy in midfield to get it. Silva's side certainly possess the quality to break their opponents down, but have yet to show a killer edge.
If the Villans bring a bit of steel to the encounter and work as one cohesive unit, the Toffees will struggle to defeat them.