Down by two with time running low, Aston Villa put up a comeback that won’t soon be forgotten against the mighty Red Devils. Jacob Ramsey scored in the 77th minute and Philippe Coutinho came from off the bench to nail home the leveller in the 82nd minute, securing the draw against Manchester United. While it wasn’t a full three points, everyone came away with the thought that it was a well earned point and that Bruno Fernandes is a distinctly unlikable character on the pitch.
Moving onto this week’s opponent, Villa travel to Liverpool to take on Everton. I’ve always liked Everton and they’re one of two clubs that I really don’t mind at all amongst the Premier League/Championship crowd, which also includes Watford (it’s the moose badge, Elton John, and the team colors). Everton is, for me, not unlike the Danish concept of hygge — they’re familiar, welcoming, nice, and they aren’t anywhere approaching gauche. Goodison Park, at least from watching on TV, has strong pre-renovation Wrigley Field vibes. The club has a strong Chicago Cubs vibe overall at times. That song they walk out to? That’s hygge. Have I mentioned they’re called the Toffees? Extremely hygge. And, as is important with the concept of hygge, they feel almost completely unthreatening. Are they completely unthreatening? Of course not, but they feel that way. They’re hygge, at least from viewing from the opposing perspective.
From the interior, things are less comfy. Rafa Benitez is out as manager, thankfully only after running off a talented French left-back and things are a bit messy. In their last three league matches, Everton have two losses (2-1 at Norwich City and 3-2 to Brighton & Hove Albion) and a draw against Chelsea. Top players to keep an eye on include Dominic Calvert-Lewin at forward, midfielder/forward Demarai Gray, and midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure.
The team sheet for Villa this week shouldn’t be much of a shock, though a couple of questions are present. Emi Martinez will start in goal, with Lucas Digne at left-back, Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konza at center-back, and Matty Cash at right-back.
In the midfield, Douglas Luiz holds the middle, with Jacob Ramsey and John McGinn. McGinn returns from a one game absence and that looks to push out either Jacob Ramsey or the frustrated Frenchman, Morgan Sanson. Sanson, as mentioned in the past, needs more playing time to progress, but he remains stuck behind McGinn and Ramsey in the pecking order.
Up front, Emi Buendia is set to start on the right with either Ollie Watkins or Danny Ings in the middle. The Watkins-Ings partnership hasn’t lived up to its potential as of yet, and forcing the issue at the expense of starting a player like Philippe Coutinho on the left seems ill advised, so I would opt for a trio of Coutinho, Watkins, and Buendia.
PREDICTION: I honestly do kind of like Everton, like so many other Villa fans, and seeing them flirting with the Championship is a stomach churning and an unwelcome reminder of the 2015-16 season. They’re nowhere near as unmoored as that Villa side, but they’re definitely a mess. Caretaker manager Duncan Ferguson could well provide the moral boost that the Toffees need, but I don’t think it’s quite enough to overcome the solid form of Steven Gerrard’s side; 1-0 to the Villa.