After ending their demoralising run of defeats in Remi Garde’s first game in charge, Aston Villa now head to Everton searching their first Premier League success since the opening day of the season.
The home side come into this handily positioned in ninth place, especially when it is considered that Crystal Palace are the only team currently in the top half that they are yet to face. Last time out the Toffees recovered from a slow start at West Ham United to pick up a useful point – with Romelu Lukaku scoring at Upton Park yet again – but maybe lacked the killer instinct to go on and win it the second half as the game became disjointed.
Lukaku’s goal came from a wonderful through-ball by Gerard Deulofeu, who has excelled in recent weeks. The young Spaniard took a while to get going upon his permanent move to Merseyside in the summer, but is now beginning to the look like the player he promised to be during his loan spell at the club in 2013-14, and his trickery will undoubtedly cause problems for the Villa defence here. Everton have not lost in this fixture since December 2008.
Not many gave Aston Villa the remotest chance of taking anything against leaders Manchester City, let alone a clean sheet, but Remi Garde gained an instant response from his players as they dug in to claim a morale-boosting point. They may have carried little threat going forward and had to rely on a lack of quality finishing from City to remain on level terms, but all the same they deserve enormous credit for a spirited performance which earned acclaim from the club’s long-suffering supporters.
For his first team selection at the helm, Garde decided to recall many of the club’s summer signings to the starting XI, many of which he will have known from French football. Jordan Amavi has been one of Villa’s few shining lights this season, but it was certainly a test for midfield duo Idrissa Gueye and Jordan Veretout and they most definitely passed it. Here, they come up against a player who knows all about being part of a Villa midfield, with Gareth Barry looking to triumph over his former club.
Two long-term absentees may return for Everton, with Tom Cleverley back from an ankle injury and Leighton Baines available to make his first appearance of the season.
Amavi has been ruled out for the rest of the campaign for Villa after he suffered a serious injury while representing the French U-21 team. Forwards Gabriel Agbonlahor and Rudy Gestede are both doubtful.
Played for both – Richard Dunne: While Dunne is best known for his nine years at Manchester City, he spent four years at each of these clubs, beginning his career at Everton and making 60 appearances in the Premier League before leaving in 2000. He joined Aston Villa in 2009 and helped them to sixth place and the final of the League Cup in his first season. A long-term injury saw him leave in 2013 having scored four times in 95 league games.