Alex McLeish’s side stuttered over the festive period winning only two of their six games and sliding to 13th in their table. Whilst their victory over Bolton in early December was expected their success against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge turned a lot of heads in the top flight with some seeing it as a potential turning point for Villa. However they followed up that performance with defeat against Swansea at Villa Park to maintain their inconsistent form. Their impressive win West London highlighted the capabilities of the Villa squad with Stephen Ireland, in particular, proving to be a shining light over Christmas. The midfielder has endured a tough time since his move from Manchester City at the end of last season but his attitude and performance in recent weeks have been encouraging. Villa will need him to be at his playmaking best as they continue to dream of a European finish to the season. For that to happen they’ll need to improve a home record that has seen them lose five times on their own turf.
David Moyes injury hit squad will be hoping to inflict more misery on Villa supporters by taking a much needed three points back home to Merseyside. Injuries have decimated Everton over the last couple of weeks with key players Phil Jagielka and Leon Osman missing from the trip to the Midlands. Defeat at Tottenham on Wednesday night left the Toffees just outside the top half although their ambitions of European football look all but over after losing in North London. Their inability to covert chances into goals cost them once again at White Hart Lane although supporters will be encouraged by the performance of Landon Donovan. The on-loan American was arguably their star performer against Spurs and will be desperate to open his Everton account soon rather than later with his temporary stay at Goodison Park running out in March. He’ll be determined to ensure the Toffees don’t incur a fourth consecutive defeat at Villa Park as their European dream continues to fade away.
Aston Villa 13th : 23 points
Last six: L W D L L W
Team news: James Collins and Carlos Cuellar are both out along with Emile Heskey but Shay Given could return in goal after recovering from a hamstring injury.
Key Player: Gabriel Agbonlahor
Whilst Villa have struggled to be consistent this season Agbonlahor has managed to maintain his level of performance to become a key player for Alex McLeish’s men. His pace down the flanks could prove useful against an injury hit Everton side.
Everton 11th : 24 points
Last six: L L L W D W D
Key Player: Sylvain Distin
With captain Phil Jagielka likely to miss this game defensive responsibitlies will shift over to Distin. The Frenchman has been exception for Everton this season and will need to be at his best to keep out Villa’s attacking threats.
Villa have won only three times at home this season but will be spoiling after defeat to Swansea in their last outing. Everton continue to flirt with the top half but their injury hit squad may find two games in the space of 72 hours too much to handle.