Huge. Massive. 12th Man. Six Pointer.
Cliches are a common sight in football reporting and this preview will likely be no different. Aston Villa travel to Goodison Park in a more precarious position than most would care to recognise. The objective this weekend is quite obvious, we are no longer in a position whereby we can look to take points from fixtures such as this, we have to go to Everton with the aim of winning.
The manner is which our improved form has evaporated in recent weeks has been nothing short of a disaster. The goodwill that Houllier had managed to build after an equally dismal season opening has followed suit. Questionable man management, bizarre post match interview and growing supporter discontent do not brew well whilst on a trickier than anticipated run in.
Our opponents on Saturday are no mugs. A genuine football team, veteran top flight participants and one half of the most played fixture in English football. Everton aren’t always pretty, but they grind out results season on season, possess a fine manager whom if they had the funds that their city rivals have squandered, could probably have taken them to greater heights.
Everton’s current form is tidy. Wins against Newcastle and Fulham have seen them all but assure their status for next year, and with Wolves and Wigan on the horizon, are fair bets to cement a mid table finish. Worryingly Everton will have in all probability identified Villa as the next feasible step in adding to their points tally.
Enough has been written or ranted about Villa’s ineptitude. The Wolves defeat was a shock low that sent a great number rushing for the bomb shelters. The bad news for Houllier is that it also made up the minds of a great deal of “fence sitters” regarding his tenure.
But all is not lost. Our defence aside, we are in good shape to fight this head on.
Ashley Young, Bent & Downing impressed for England. The cynics amongst the Villa faithful will always cry that they never do this for the club or that they are simply trying to put themselves in the “shop window”. Reality of course dictates that the jewels in our crown are supported by equally adept players whilst on international duty – and aren’t relying upon James Collins to shore up the backline.
And the backline is the problem. It was a mess against Wolves. Chris Herd’s inclusion was baffling, a disaster and surely not to be repeated. One would hope that the reports of Luke Young & Kyle Walker’s return to fitness are true. As for centre halves, who knows what to expect? Cueller is assured but usually alone when defending this season and Collins’ performance against England pretty much summed up the standard to which we can expect from him against quality opposition. As such, this could be a fixture to watch from behind the sofa.
This is a massive game for us and victory would provide a little reassurance that the worst might not happen. And who knows, Everton are without Arteta and “Elbow” Fellaini afterall.
Prediction Corner: 1-2 to Villa – Bent & Young Goalscorers.