Under newly appointed Rémi Garde, Aston Villa finally stopped the rot. A draw against league leaders Manchester City last time out provided a huge point, even if it didn't see the Claret and Blues move up on the table. Villa still are bottom, but the confidence gained could be crucial going forward.
Of course the international break halted the momentum, as per usual. Even worse, Jordan Amavi sustained a knee injury that rules him out for the rest of the season. But, the break provided an opportunity for the new boss to get a feel for the majority of his squad. Although it's cliché to say it's now or never, the points have to start accumulating sooner rather than later if Villa hope to survive.
Kieran Richardson will be called back into action to replace the injured Amavi at left back, but it's not all bad news for the Villa defence. Ciaran Clark helped his Ireland side qualify for Euro 2016, and figures to come back into the starting eleven under Garde.
While Jores Okore should be available, Micah Richards will still most likely be preferred at right centre back. With Alan Hutton playing at an acceptable level on the right of defence, it's unlikely Garde will switch things up at the back. Irregardless of who is tasked with stopping the Everton attack, they'll have their hands full.
Romelu Lukaku is a force to be reckoned with, despite the 22-year-old being nowhere near his full potential. The Belgian hitman has seven goals and four assists in 12 Premier League games this season, and it goes without saying that he is the biggest threat for the Toffees. Luckily, Richards has the pace and physical ability to stay with him.
Additionally, whomever Garde starts on the flanks will be responsible of tracking the runs of the Everton fullbacks. The pair of Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines may be the best in England's top flight. This task may be shouldered by Jack Grealish and Carles Gil, with the latter almost guaranteed to start having taken part in every training session during the recent pause.
Central midfield is where the match may be won or lost, and it could come down to team selection. It's too early to tell who Garde prefers, but Jordan Veretout figures to have a more prominent role under the new gaffer he shares a nationality with. Carlos Sánchez may also see more time, as his defensive tendencies might stand out as a reason to select him. Whichever players are deployed there will definitely be locked in a tight battle against the combative former Villan Gareth Barry and his defensive midfield partner, be it Muhamed Bešić, James McCarthy or Tom Cleverley.
In attack, Jordan Ayew absolutely needs to get the nod as the lone striker. He has the playmaking ability to change matches. Garde is unlikely to go with more than one dedicated forward, rather relying on more midfielders to provide the chances and/or goals. Ayew has been very positive lately, even managing a goal for Ghana over the break.
Should Villa be able to avoid mistakes at the back, this is certainly a winnable match. The midfield must focus on converting turnovers in possession to quick attacking transitions, feeding the creative outlets available.
Tim Howard; Seamus Coleman, John Stones, Ramiro Funes Mori, Leighton Baines; Gareth Barry, James McCarthy; Gerard Deulofeu, Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas; Romelu Lukaku.
Aston Villa (4-3-3):
Brad Guzan; Alan Hutton, Micah Richards, Ciaran Clark, Kieran Richardson; Jordan Veretout, Carlos Sánchez, Idrissa Gana Gueye; Carles Gil, Jordan Ayew, Scott Sinclair.
Who would you start if you were Rémi Garde? Let us know in the comments!