Everton will be aiming for a fifth win in six Premier League outings as they go to Aston Villa, who still need points to stave off the threat of relegation.
Performances of late suggest that the home side should be well capable of picking up the results they need, and they were so unlucky to come away with nothing from their game at champions Manchester City, conceding amid controversy in the closing stages after launching a spirited comeback.
Manager Tim Sherwood has not only sparked an improvement in striker Christian Benteke – his influence has spread to the midfield. Leandro Bacuna and Fabian Delph are in fine form, while the much-maligned Tom Cleverley and the previously ineffectual Carlos Sanchez both got their first goals for the club at the Etihad Stadium.
The battle for supremacy between Benteke and fellow Belgian international frontman Romelu Lukaku will take centre stage here, and the latter also seems back in business after suffering a little earlier in the campaign. Lukaku was on target in this fixture last season and will look to help extend Everton’s unbeaten run against Villa to nine games.
Achieving a top half finish has now become the goal for the remainder of the season after a sparkling recent run which reached its peak last time out with a classy dismissal of Manchester United, where they counter-attacked with maximum efficiency. James McCarthy in particular was in fine form in midfield.
Alan Hutton may return for a Villa side that is still unable to call upon Ciaran Clark and Gabriel Agbonlahor.
The visitors will be without Bryan Oviedo for the rest of the season. Darron Gibson is also missing, while Steven Pienaar is a major doubt.
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