Five changes for Everton, who drop Baines, Sigurdsson, Walcott and Gordon from the team beaten 3-0 by Wolves, and lose Mina to injury. Coleman, Andre Gomes, Bernard, Iwobi and Holgate come in.
Villa bring in Matt Targett for Neil Taylor, who twanged a hamstring in the weekend win over Crystal Palace, but are otherwise unchanged. Kortney Hause, who got ribknacked in the warm-up to that game, is out again.
The team sheets are fresh off the photocopier, and these are the big names writ upon them:
Everton: Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Holgate, Digne, Iwobi, Davies, Andre Gomes, Bernard, Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison. Subs: Baines, Sigurdsson, Walcott, Sidibe, Stekelenburg, Kean, Virginia, Branthwaite, Gordon.
Aston Villa: Reina, Elmohamady, Konsa, Mings, Targett, McGinn, Douglas Luiz, Hourihane, Trezeguet, Samatta, Grealish. Subs: Lansbury, Nakamba, El Ghazi, Jota, Guilbert, Nyland, Vassilev, Davis, Hayden.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.
Well then. In theory, tonight should be straightforward. Over the season as a whole Everton have scored precisely 1.5 as many points as Aston Villa, rising to 2.22 times this calendar year. Everton’s home record is quite good (they have won 30 points at Goodison Park, precisely double their away tally), while Aston Villa’s record on their travels is horrid (they have won nine points away from Villa Park, precisely half of their home tally). Everton last lost at home in November (to Norwich, randomly). Villa’s last and indeed only away win this season came at Burnley on New Year’s Day.
Everton, in short, have a significantly better team than Villa, one that tends to get significantly better results.
But by popular consensus they’re not playing very well at present, and may be suffering from a few motivational issues. Villa, meanwhile, probably need to win two of their last three to have any chance of staying up and are thus fighting for their lives. Victory would give them hope; defeat would leave them on the brink. This game promises desperation, if only from one side. And in my experience desperate footballers often do fun things. So strap yourselves in, it could be quite a ride.