Everton-Aston Villa Preview
Everton can consider 2020-21 a "good season", according to Carlo Ancelotti, but he has ruled out his side's chances of snatching a top-four place.
The Toffees started the season brilliantly but have suffered from inconsistency since. They meet Aston Villa – who also began 2020-21 in flying form – on Thursday; a game which has just been rearranged and was initially set to take place in January.
The teams met earlier this month at Goodison Park, with Villa inflicting what was likely the fatal blow to Everton's Champions League ambitions with a 2-1 win.
Everton bounced back with a 1-0 victory at West Ham to keep their chances of some form of European qualification alive, however, and Ancelotti is now looking to make it 12 away wins this term.
"No that is not a possibility for us, we have to be honest," Ancelotti said when asked about the Champions League race. "Our season has to be considered a good season, but we have to wait for the last four games. We want to put all our energy on our target.
"At the start of the season we were thinking that it was difficult to compete with the top six. After all these games, we were able to compete - because we are still there and close to the top. The results at home, we could do much better."
While Everton would move, temporarily at least, into sixth with a win, Villa would leapfrog Leeds United into the top ten.
However, Villa will be without the suspended Ollie Watkins – who netted at Goodison – while Smith confirmed Jack Grealish is not fit to start, though may be in the squad.
"We'll sit down with the doctor as well and take it from there. I can't give a positive yes or no. He looked comfortable and he's a naturally fit player anyway," he said.
Aston Villa – Wesley
In Watkins' absence, it looks as though Wesley – who has not yet started in the league this season, albeit he has endured a long injury lay off – will get a chance from the off. The Brazilian forward has been something of a flop at Villa, though his first Premier League goal did come against Everton in the corresponding fixture last season.
Everton – Dominic Calvert-Lewin
Ancelotti will still be without James Rodriguez for this game, and it is likely Everton will rely mostly on counter-attacks and set-pieces, as they have done in many of their away games this season. Calvert-Lewin scored the winner against West Ham, taking him onto 16 league goals for the season. No English player has scored more for the Toffees in the Premier League.
Following their 2-1 win against them at the start of the month, Villa are looking to do the league double over Everton for the first time since the 2000-01 campaign.
Villa beat Everton 2-1 on May 1st – victory here will be the second shortest gap between one side beating another in Premier League history (12 days), after Arsenal beat Bolton twice in the space of three days in January 2010.
Everton have won six of their last 11 Premier League meetings with Villa (D2 L3), as many as they had in their previous 39 against them in the competition (D16 L17).
This will be the 206th league meeting between Aston Villa and Everton (all in the top-flight), extending its record as the most played match in English league history.
Ancelotti has won just one of his six Premier League games against Villa (D3 L2) – against no side does he have a lower win rate in the competition (17%, min. five meetings).
Updated May 12, 2021