PREVIEW | Everton vs Aston Villa
It seems almost conceivable that Everton were last in action only the previous weekend.
It’s been an eventful week since then with Rafael Benitez’s ill-fated tenure finally coming to an end on Sunday and links with a successor dominating the news every day since. Many names have been suggested but the only definite so far is Duncan Ferguson will once again be taking caretaker charge for tomorrow’s visit of Aston Villa.
The most immediate worry, even ahead of hiring a new manager, has to be addressing the looming threat of relegation as defeat at Norwich last weekend was nothing short of catastrophic. The Toffees have now only attained six points out of the last possible 39 in the league and hover just above the relegation zone in 16th, in desperate need of a win. Can Ferguson be the man to deliver it?
It will not be an easy task as they take on an Aston Villa side in a poor run of form themselves. But they are strengthening their side week-by-week during this January transfer window, under the stewardship of one of the least popular men to ever set foot inside Goodison Park, Steven Gerrard. He has already added Everton’s Lucas Digne to the Villains’ overflowing rosters, as well as his former Liverpool team-mate Philippe Coutinho who inspired a late fightback to secure a 2-2 draw at home to Manchester United last weekend.
One to watch – Richarlison
This week, Ferguson has been talking up the importance of the players giving their all whilst out on the pitch. One man who will not need to hear that message is Richarlison, whose sheer will and determination has won him the adoration of the Goodison faithful. He came off the bench at Carrow Road last week after a while out with a calf injury and scored a superb overhead kick to pull a goal back for the Blues. One would hope he is fit to start tomorrow lunchtime as his work rate as well as creativity will be crucial if Everton are to gain a victory they desperately need.
One to watch – Lucas Digne
There are several members of that Aston Villa side that seem destined to spoil the party tomorrow, but Digne is the elephant in the room. Arriving in Birmingham from the Toffees just over a week ago after a falling out with Benitez, Digne looks set to start against his old side and it would be typical for him to have a hand in anything his new employers might get out of the game. One thing for certain is he is likely to receive a warm welcome from the home crowd, the majority of which do not blame the Frenchman for his exit whatsoever and still hold him in high regard.
It is going to be be a very different atmosphere inside Goodison than it has been the past few weeks. The highly unpopular Benitez has finally been ousted and a man many Everton fans consider a hero will be standing in the dugout and no doubt sauntering down the touchline like a jubilant child should the Blues find the net at any point. It is something the fans will definitely get behind, in spite of the anger and lack of faith in the board that remains, and it promises to be a tumultuous Goodison Park tomorrow.
Will that be enough to get a struggling Everton over the line?