Everton will look to continue their charge for a place in next season’s Champions League with the visit of an Aston Villa side looking completely bereft of ideas, confidence, leadership and quality to Goodison Park.
Although Toffees boss David Moyes will be disappointed that deals were not completed for top two transfer targets Leroy Fer and Alvaro Negredo, the Scot will know that with Tottenham playing on Sunday and facing a tricky fixture at the Hawthorns against West Brom, that victory over Villa will take Everton into fourth place for 24 hours at least.
New signing from Barnsley John Stones is unlikely to make his debut despite injuries to regular right backs Tony Hibbert and Seamus Coleman. Elsewhere, Darron Gibson is pushing for a start after returning from a thigh injury in the victory over West Brom on Wednesday.
At the other end of the spectrum, Aston Villa’s demoralising home defeat to relegation rivals Newcastle on Tuesday left the Midlands-based club languishing in 19th position. Though Paul Lambert will rightly claim that his young side are only in the drop zone courtesy of their substantially poorer goal difference, it is the form being shown by his players that is arguably of bigger concern, with there currently being no signs of halting this rather desperate run of form. The leadership and experience of Stillian Petrov, still absent as he battles leukaemia, is needed more than ever at Villa Park.
Lambert may hand debuts to his two deadline-day signings, French midfielder Yacouba Sylla and on-loan from Tottenham attacker Simon Dawkins. The Scot must also choose whether to partner Christian Benteke with Darren Bent, who played poorly before being withdraw at half-time in the defeat against Newcastle.
Fabian Delph is doubtful with an ankle injury while Chris Herd and Marc Albrighton (both ankle) remain on the sidelines. Elsewhere, Villa have also been hit by the news that Richard Dunne has suffered a breakdown in his recovery from a groin injury and after undergoing surgery, will continue to be out for the foreseeable future.