Everton face one of their bogey teams at 3pm this Saturday as Aston Villa, a team who the Blues haven’t beaten at Goodison Park for almost 7 years, travel to the Old Lady.
It’s been a mixed week for Evertonians as the high of two 2-1 victories is tempered by a disappointing January transfer window. Leroy Fer and Alvaro Negredo were both mooted as potential reinforcements at a time when it sounded like the club didn’t have two quid to rub together, but neither transfer came to pass. Now David Moyes has to prepare for the home straight having only added a young right back, and having lost a versatile (albeit ineffectual) midfielder in the shape of Magaye Gueye. Indeed, Gueye is said to be so excited by the prospect of his loan move to Brest that he decided to sprint from his house to John Lennon Airport. Unconfirmed reports place him at the end of his drive.
Nearly men: Negredo (left) and Fer (right) were missed targets in January. David Moyes will hope his team aren’t disheartened by the club’s failure to land them.
While one Frenchman contemplates the possible end of his unimpressive Everton career, another has just managed to extend his stay. Sylvain Distin has looked nothing like his 35 years this season as he’s kept pace with strikers and wingers just over half his age, and provided some crucial interventions in a shaky Everton defence. Now he’ll remain at the club for another season, much to the delight of teammate Leighton Baines, who hailed the Cyborg as “…one of the best professionals I’ve ever worked with.” this week.
That Everton defence will provide one of several selection dilemmas for Moyes ahead of the weekend’s game, with the Scot in danger of having a fully fit squad. Until the inevitable on-pitch collision which severs Mirallas’ hamstring and cuts Gibson’s leg clean off. With Coleman and Hibbert seemingly sidelined the right back slot will fall to either Phil Neville or Phil Jagielka. The presence of Christian Benteke may force Moyes to move the easily dominated Johnny Heitinga from central defence and reunite the more solid looking Jagielka-Distin partnership.
Gibson seems likely to make a full return to central midfield, playing alongside Osman or Fellaini if Neville is chosen at Right Back. The Gibson-Fellaini partnership is much more solid looking and led to midfield domination for a time last season, but given that in the reverse fixture in August Fellaini scored in a match Everton dominated it seems likely that the big man will keep his place up front.
The final selection dilemma is the Anichebe or Jelavic issue. Local lad Anichebe has upped his workrate this year and put in tremendous effort in recent games. Jelavic is undoubtedly the more talented player, but has looked off the pace this season in a team that has grown accustomed to playing to Fellaini’s strengths. I’d favour putting Jelavic back in for the game, but my instinct says Moyes will start Anichebe.
Villa don’t lack for pace, and the behemoth that is Benteke will be supported by the sprightly Weiman and Agbonlahor on the break. Villa played well despite their loss to Newcastle in midweek and will take heart from that. Fortunately, Paul Lambert is a Grade A scruffbag who looks like he’s shat himself, so Everton should have what it takes to win tomorrow.
Villa to win 2-1
Lineup I’d like to see:-
Stone(how bad can he be?)—Jagielka—Distin—Baines
Lineup I expect to see:-