Premier League

Everton-Aston Villa Preview

Dean Smith has plenty of attacking options at his disposal, but the Aston Villa coach has no issue with playing his two strikers together.

Villa brought in Danny Ings before the start of the season and the former Southampton striker has made a flying start, scoring two league goals across four appearances so far.

Ollie Watkins, meanwhile, impressed last season following his arrival from Brentford, and returned from injury to feature alongside Ings in the 3-0 defeat to Chelsea last time out.

Next up for Villa is Everton on Saturday, and with uncertainty over the availability of Emiliano Buendia - though Leon Bailey could be in line for his first start - Smith hinted his forward duo may well feature yet again.

"We brought Danny in because we feel he will compliment the way Ollie Watkins plays. I certainly see them playing together," said Smith.

"If I play them they will definitely play together (in a two). It would be foolish of me to move Ollie Watkins out wide when he scored 16 goals last season and 25 the season before that for Brentford in a central position."

Everton have made a strong start under Rafael Benitez, and are unbeaten so far, sitting on 10 points.

"As a manager, a coach, you have to do your job, trying to improve your players, trying to create a good atmosphere, also with the fans," said Benitez.

"I think it is just different depending on the club but in this case I think because I know the city, I know what the Evertonians want and how they want their players to perform on the pitch.

"The main thing for me is to come here and see a lot of players trying to do their best. This group of players, they care, and they are working hard to try and improve every day."

Aston Villa - Leon Bailey

Bailey was something of a coup for Villa as they looked to replace Jack Grealish, with the winger having thrived at Bayer Leverkusen last season. He provided an assist on his debut, but has been injured since and, if he is available, will be determined to make his mark in front of the home fans.

Everton - Andros Townsend

Andros Townsend lashed in a remarkable strike in Everton's win over Burnley on Monday. He has been involved in three goals in his four Premier League appearances this season, as many as he had in his previous 31 for Crystal Palace in the competition.

- Abdoulaye Doucoure has been involved in four goals in his four Premier League games for Everton this season (one goal, three assists), just one fewer than he managed in 29 appearances last season (two goals, three assists).

- Ings has scored five Premier League goals against Everton - against no side has he scored more in the competition. The Toffees are the only club against which Ings has scored for all three of his previous top-flight clubs (Burnley, Liverpool and Southampton).

- Everton have lost just two of their last 17 Premier League away games (W10 D5), with those defeats coming at Chelsea and Manchester City last season. The Toffees have recorded seven clean sheets in their last 10 away league games, as many as in their previous 33 on the road.

- Villa are unbeaten in four league games against Everton, winning two and drawing two. They had only won two of their previous 15 Premier League meetings with the Toffees (D7 L6).

- Benitez has lost just one of his 17 games against Villa in all competitions (W10 D6), while the Spaniard has never lost against them at Villa Park (W4 D5).

Updated September 17, 2021

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