Carlos Ancelotti will want to see a response after Everton's 'unacceptable' performance at Wolves and Steve Rawlings thinks the Toffees boss will see one at home to relegation-threatened Aston Villa...
"Everton are never easy to beat at home and are undefeated in their last ten in the Premier League at Goodison Park."
Everton v Aston Villa
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Tame Toffees in need of a response
Having looked in a bit of trouble following a 5-2 drubbing by their neighbours, Liverpool, in early December, Everton rallied nicely prior to the lockdown. They bounced back after the derby defeat to beat Chelsea 3-1, drew their next two and continued the improvement after Christmas with new manager, Carlos Ancelotti, at the helm. They were beaten 2-1 away at Manchester City on New Year's Day but that was their only defeat in 11 in the Premier League.
The Toffees lost two of their last three prior to lockdown but they came back after the break in decent form, drawing 0-0 at home to the champions, Liverpool, and beating both Norwich and Leicester but they've struggled since and they were very poor on Sunday, going down tamely to Wolves away 3-0, with a performance that Ancelotti described as "unacceptable".
"There are some excuses but I don't want to have excuses, the performance was not acceptable. The spirit of the team was unacceptable.
"I spoke to the players and we have to prepare and work differently and have a different attitude. I don't want to talk individually about every single player. I said to them this attitude is not acceptable for me and we have to change immediately. I want to see a different spirit."
And club captain, Seamus Coleman, was equalling scathing following Sunday's abject performance.
"There's no hiding, they were better all over the pitch and we need to ask some serious questions of ourselves. The attitude and desire is not there, we got beat by the better team.
"As individuals, as a club we need to be expecting better and the lads really need to dig in or that won't be good enough for this manager or this football club."
Following Sunday's loss, Everton are still languishing in the bottom half of the table with European football next season now out of the question. And as a gauge of how disappointing this campaign has been, since they narrowly avoided relegation back in the 2003/04 season, the Toffees have never finished worse than 11th in the Premier League. A worse finishing position this season is now a distinct possibility.
Villa clinging on but for how long?
Minutes after Everton had lost 3-0 to Wolves on Sunday, relegation-threatened Aston Villa took to the field against Crystal Palace and after a stroke of luck in the seventh minute, when Mamadou Sakho's goal was incorrectly chalked off for the visitors, the Villans scored either side of the break to secure their first Premier League victory since they beat fellow strugglers, Watford, six months ago.
Villa's 2-0 victory against Palace ended a run of 10 Premier League games without a win but with all their relegation rivals also winning at the weekend, they're still long odds-on to return to the Championship.
With fellow strugglers, West Ham and Watford, playing each other on Friday night, this is a big chance for the Villans to close the gap but they haven't won back-to-back Premier League games since October and their away record is far from great.
Villa beat relegated Norwich 5-1 at Carrow Road back in October and they caused a bit of a shock when they left Turf Moor with all three points following a 2-1 win on New Year's Day but Burnley weren't at their best at the time and Villa are the only team in the division to have conceded in every single Premier League away match played this season. In fact, that run stretches back to before this campaign and they've now gone 24 Premier League away games without keeping a clean sheet.
Everton looking to make it four in-a-row at home
Everton v Aston Villa is the most played fixture in English top-flight history, with the Villans winning 74 of the 203 previous meetings to Everton's 76. There have been 53 draws between the two sides but Everton have won the last three at Goodison Park and they're fancied to make it four in-a-row.
Villa have everything to play for and anything but three points will in all likelihood spell disaster. They've been well supported in the outright market here following Sunday's results but Everton are never easy to beat at home and are undefeated in their last ten in the Premier League at Goodison Park - winning five and drawing five. Villa look short at less than 3/1 - especially given Ancelotti's words on Sunday.
The Toffees may not have much to play for on paper now but they still have their pride and for a number of players, their place in the team next season is in jeopardy.
Toffees value to hit the ground running
Ancelotti, Coleman, and the Everton faithful will all be looking for a response on Thursday night and I fancy we might just see one. The Toffees look a fair price in the outright market at odds-against but given their penchant for starting games quickly at home, I've played Everton-Everton in the Half Time/Full time market at a very fair [3.55].
Everton have been in front in eight of their 17 Premier League home games so far this season (losing at the break only once) and Villa have been trailing in seven of their 17 on the road.
Following their win at Burnley, Villa trailed at half time in each of their next seven Premier League matches and with Ancelotti's men fully revved up for this one, a hectic start looks on the cards with Everton establishing an early lead a strong possibility.
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Staked: 71 pts
Returned: 87.14 pts
P/L: +16.14 pts
1 pt Everton/Everton in the Half Time/Full Time market @ [3.55]