Aston Villa host Everton at Villa Park in what is another occurrence of English football’s most-played fixture.
Villa and Everton have played each other an incredible 202 times in history.
Friday will be the 203rd such occurrence.
The match-up is one that isn’t often regarded as one of English football’s top rivalries, but it is one steeped in history. The royal blue of Everton and the claret and blue of Aston Villa are fabrics of the game; none of the 202 previous match-ups took place outside the top flight.
Everton travel to Villa Park collecting four points from their opening two Premier League fixtures against Crystal Palace and Watford. Neither were entirely convincing displays, but Marco Silva’s squad will prove a strong test.
Midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin will be eligible after serving a one-game ban for a red card in Matchweek 1. Star left-back Lucas Digne is back in training after departing Everton’s match against Watford with a knock, but it’s unknown if he will be available.
Other than that, though, it’s mostly status quo for the two sides. The key to Villa will be keeping Everton’s amorphous front four off the ball as much as possible. Gylfi Sigurðsson is world class, as is Brazil international Richarlison. Coupled with Bernard, Alex Iwobi, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Moise Kean, the Toffees will be difficult to stop.
Predicted Aston Villa XI (4-3-3): Heaton; Elmohamady, Engels, Mings, Taylor; Luiz, McGinn, Grealish; Trézéguet, Wesley, El Ghazi
Substitutes: Steer, Konsa, Targett, Hourihane, Lansbury, Jota, Davis
It’s very possible Dean Smith makes zero changes from the team that lost 2-1 to Bournemouth. Likely even, considering the midweek Carabao Cup tie against Crewe will give him the opportunity to let the likes of Matt Targett, Fred Guilbert, Ezri Konsa and others get their first taste of senior Villa football.
I’d start Guilbert no questions asked (partnering Jota on the right), but it’s tough to predict that will happen considering he missed out on both matchday eighteens thus far.
Prediction: 2-2 draw