EPL preview: Why the midfield battle could define Aston Villa-Everton tie
Date: Saturday 26th October
Venue: Villa Park
Everton travel to Villa Park on Saturday in search of a second straight Premier League victory as they look to make a push into the top five on the table. Aston Villa will be keen to bounce back from a home defeat to Tottenham last time out and recover the form that saw them take seven points away from their previous three contests in the English top-flight in a fixture that has seen 21 goals scored in its last six fixtures.
Talismanic striker Christian Benteke should be fit to start after seeing his first action in nearly a month last weekend against Spurs, dropping stand-in summer capture Libor Kozak to the bench.
Cirian Clark could potentially be in line for a return to the first eleven following a bout of sickness and should step in for Nathan Baker in central defence if deemed fit by boss Paul Lambert.
Karim El Ahmadi and Fabian Delph are odds-on to retain their spots in the holding midfield pair, with Gabriel Agbonlahor, Andreas Weimann, and Leandro Bacuna likely to make up the supporting trident behind Benteke.
Darron Gibson is the only absentee of note for boss Roberto Martinez after undergoing knee surgery this week to repair damage to his cruciate ligament sustained on international duty with the Republic of Ireland.
On a positive note for the Toffees, Steven Pienaar looks good value to start for the first time since August, having come off the bench opposite Hull last Saturday to hit the winner with his first touch of the afternoon.
The South African’s reintroduction should come at the expense of Leon Osman, whilst Kevin Mirallas and Ross Barkley will nearly certainly constitute the remainder of the attacking midfield trio responsible for supplying service to lone front man Romelu Lukaku.
Each of the sides have had ups and downs over the past month, Everton alternating between winning and losing in their last four matches between the Premier League and Capital One Cup, and Aston Villa falling twice to Tottenham but defeating Manchester City to go with a draw against Hull City in the same stretch.
The Toffees have triumphed just once on the road in all competitions this campaign, a 3-2 result against West Ham on 21 September, whilst the hosts have struggled mightily in front of the home support in having taken just three of the 12 points on offer thus far at Villa Park.