Aston Villa vs Everton preview: Rafa Benitez, Lucas Digne’s return & more

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We spoke to LiverpoolWorld’s Will Rooney to get the latest from the Everton camp

Aston Villa and Everton go head-to-head on Saturday lunchtime with the two in very contrasting spirits.

Villa still buoyed by their recent signings and excellent comeback against Manchester United last weekend seem to be only heading one way under Steven Gerrard and that’s up.

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Everton on the other hand have just parted ways with yet another manager and seem to be in a state of limbo with no clear vision of how to take the club forward.

All signs point to a comfortable day for the claret & blue but with Lucas Digne returning to Goodison Park less than two weeks after his departure and old foe Gerrard in the dugout - the extra spice to this one adds an air of unpredictability to the fixture.

We spoke to LiverpoolWorld’s Will Rooney to try and get a grasp of what Villa can expect from their opponents on Saturday afternoon.

What have you made of Everton’s season so far?

Well below what every supporter expects.

There has been so much apathy and indifference for obvious reasons in recent weeks.

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Everton started the season well, picking up 13 points in their opening five games.

Rafa Benitez stamped his mark on the team, bringing a playing identity with emphasis on early crosses and flooding the box with blue shirts.

However, injuries to key men such as Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison, Yerry Mina and Abdoulaye Doucoure soon curtailed the early progress.

Resulted then jettisoned and it’s not even like performances were encouraging.

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They were dire and now the Toffees have to ensure they don’t get dragged into a relegation dogfight.

Do you think it was the right decision to get rid of Rafael Benitez?

He couldn’t have survived much longer.

There were mitigating circumstances for Benitez such as the aforementioned injuries and being able to spend just £1.7 million in the summer transfer window.

There are deep-lying problems at Everton and not all of them were his fault.

But what Benitez could dictate, he fell short. Markedly short.

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So many people said at least the Spaniard would get the Blues organised, if nothing else, as manager. He’s a renowned pragmatist.

But defending was catastrophic, to say the least - especially from set-pieces.

No-one seemed to know their defined role. Allowing 6ft 6inch to someone score unmarked in the 3-2 loss against Brighton typified the haphazardness. His closest marker was team-mate Neil Maupay.

There was so much ire among supporters towards Benitez by the end. That wasn’t because he’s a former Liverpool manager, either.

Fans were willing to give him a chance. They gave him time.

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But decisions continued to baffle and it was a relief to most when the axe was wielded.

What was the general reaction to the Lucas Digne sale?

It was mixed.

There were some fans who couldn’t fathom selling someone who’s been one of the Premier League’s top full-backs in recent seasons.

That’s understandable as he really is a high-class operator and has made Everton’s team weaker for the rest of the season.

Those in the pro-Digne camp were furious at Benitez amid their publicised falling out.

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But some understood it made sense from a business point of view given Everton’s financial troubles.

The club mad a profit on a player who turns 29 in the summer and hadn’t been at his best this season.

Those funds then were reinvested in two up-and-coming players in Vitaliy Mykolenko - Digne’s replacement - and Nathan Patterson.

Do you think he’ll receive a positive reception on Saturday?

If Benitez had been in charge, it would have been interesting.

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When he went out to warm up against Brighton, Digne got a warm reception. Some fans were very much on his side as they were anti-Benitez.

But now, with Duncan Ferguson at the helm, I think they’ll try to get him under his skin.

At the end of the day, he asked to leave Everton. Maybe it was because of the former boss but he played his part to engineer a departure.

He’s just another ex-player now trying to pilfer three points off his previous employers. That simply can’t happen.

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Lucas Digne in action for Aston Villa. Picture: Shaun Botterill/Getty ImagesLucas Digne in action for Aston Villa. Picture: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Lucas Digne in action for Aston Villa. Picture: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images | Getty Images

Team news ahead of the game?

Caretaker boss Duncan Ferguson admitted that Everton almost have a fully-fit squad.

You’d expect Richarlison and Yerry Mina to come back into the team. They both returned from respective calf injuries in last week’s 2-1 loss at Norwich.

Fabian Delph is a long-term injury, although it’s not clear what his setback is.

Tom Davies underwent hamstring surgery earlier his month and is out.

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Predicted line-up (3-4-3): Pickford; Coleman, Mina, Godrey; Patterson, Doucoure, Allan, Mykolenko; Gray, Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison.

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