Premier League

Aston Villa-Everton Preview

Duncan Ferguson has no doubt Everton's players now know what it means to play for the club after he had a full week of training with them in the wake of Rafael Benitez's dismissal.

Benitez was sacked on Sunday after a defeat at lowly Norwich City, with Everton having won just one of their last 13 Premier League games.

They sit 16th, just six points above the relegation zone, heading into Saturday's clash with Steven Gerrard's Aston Villa.

It is sure to be a heated encounter, with Gerrard a Liverpool great, while Philippe Coutinho is also an ex-Red. Lucas Digne, meanwhile, only left Everton earlier this month after a falling out with Benitez.

"I've certainly pushed them as hard as I could possibly push them, that's the main one for me, to make sure they keep that intensity," caretaker boss Ferguson said. "What's needed in an Everton player, what the fans demand, that's what I'm banging onto them. In the past it's not been good enough, they need to show the fans what they're all about.

"This week we've tried to get a bit of confidence into them, a few home truths, they look good but that's on the training ground. Let's hope they can do it where it counts, on the pitch."

Gerrard, meanwhile, was surprised his old manager Benitez took the Everton job.

"I thought it was a unique appointment at the time. I was surprised and shocked that Rafa wanted to go and have a go at that job. With his legacy and his relationship with Liverpool, that was a surprise," he told reporters.

"Big Dunc will take the reins for this game and it's quite obvious what kind of reaction he'll get from the supporters and the players. I think you're going to see a real cauldron-like atmosphere at Goodison."

Everton – Dominic Calvert-Lewin

Calvert-Lewin scored a brace in Ferguson's sole win during a brief, spirited interim spell in charge at Everton in 2019 – a 3-1 victory over Chelsea at Goodison. The striker has just returned from a long spell out injured, but the Toffees need their main goalscorer firing again if they are to avoid a relegation scrap.

Aston Villa – Philippe Coutinho

Coutinho scored in his first Premier League appearance for Villa against Manchester United last time out, with only four players scoring in their first two games for the Villans in the competition: Dalian Atkinson (1992), Dion Dublin (1998), Ross Barkley (2020) and Danny Ings (2021).

- As a player, Villa manager Gerrard was on the winning side against Everton more often than he was against any other opponent in the Premier League (16) and lost just four of his 30 games against the Toffees. Only against Villa (12) did Gerrard score more Premier League goals than he did against Everton (nine).

- Everton have scored fewer first-half goals than any other Premier League side this season (5). The Toffees have failed to score before half-time in their last five games in the competition, last having a longer such run between December 2017 and January 2018 (6).

- Everton have conceded the first goal in their last eight Premier League matches (W1 D1 L6), their longest run in Premier League history. Their previous longest was a seven game run between April and August 1997.

- Following their 3-0 win at Villa Park in September, Villa are looking to secure their first league double over Everton since 2000-01.

- Everton were joint-fifth in the clean sheet rankings in the Premier League last season, recording 12 shutouts overall. This season, only Newcastle United and Watford have kept fewer clean sheets than the Toffees (three).

Updated January 21, 2022