Toffee talk: The full lowdown of what Aston Villa can expect from Everton on Saturday
Aston Villa take on Everton in the 17:30 kick-off at Villa Park on Saturday. With the Toffees having an impressive start to the season, we spoke to our LiverpoolWorld colleague Will Rooney to find out what we can expect from Rafael Benitez’s side.
and live on Freeview channel 276
What’s the atmosphere like at Goodison Park, have the fans taken to Rafa Benitez?
There hasn’t been a buoyancy at Everton like it for some time. Things couldn’t have started much better and supporters now feel connected to their team again.
Benitez had his detractors when he was announced as manager for obvious reasons. But he’s put what he learned about Everton while Liverpool manager and his time living in the area to good use.
He knows what the fans expect first and foremost - effort and application. That’s been his mantra since arriving and reflected on the players he brought to the club. Benitez has already won over a lot of his previous knockers and his Anfield links have swiftly been forgotten about.
Everton are unbeaten in their first four, what have you made of what you’ve seen?
In truth, it’s been fairly basic but effective stuff. There’s been no tippy-tappy football nor the in-vogue passing out from the back. Benitez has got his side moving the ball forward as quickly as possibly.
That’s not to say it’s route one stuff, because it’s not. It’s positive football that ensures there’s lots of crosses and men flooding the box.
The only concern is that, in home wins against Southampton and Burnley, they conceded first in both. Granted, Everton fought back admirably on each occasion but that needs rectifying.
What’s this season’s goal for the Toffees?
It’s difficult to say. Having been encumbered by financial fair play regulations in the summer, Benitez was not able to shift on some of the high earners he thought he might have been able to.
Stability, first and foremost, is what is required to navigate through a challenging period. After finishing 10th last season, an improvement on that would be satisfactory in Benitez’s maiden campaign.
A cup run wouldn’t go amiss, either. It’s approaching 27 long seasons since silverware last was added to the trophy cabinet.
Stand out player so far?
Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan have both been immense in the middle of the park but the former just gets the nod. After taking charge, Benitez had numerous conversations about how he wanted Doucoure to rediscover the dynamism he displayed at Watford.
Having been confined to a holding-midfield role under previous boss Carlo Ancelotti, the Frenchman is now back to his barnstorming best. Marauding runs and breaking the opposition line are the attributes Benitez has rightly looked to utilise.
Do you think Villa pose Everton their toughest task yet?
I put the Villa clash in a similar bracket as games with Leeds. Both clubs are of the ilk that they’re looking to start pushing towards that top eight and even for a Europa League berth. It’ll be a challenging away day for the Toffees but they should have defeated Leeds and easily swept aside Brighton on the road.
Do they have a weakness you think Villa can expose?
There haven’t been too many glaring flaws so far from Everton. Perhaps, if the hosts can score the first goal then they could do a better job of shutting up shop than Southampton and Burnley.
Predicted line-up (4-3-3): Pickford; Coleman, Godfrey, Mina, Digne, Townsend, Doucoure, Allan, Gomes, Gray, Richarlison.
Score prediction: 2-2. Villa created a lot of chances despite the loss to Chelsea and Everton have displayed their potency in front of goal.I can see if being a fairly entertaining game.