Tuesday evening sees Aston Villa meet Everton for the 202nd time in the top flight, but the way the season is going for the hosts it could be the last time the two meet in the highest division for the foreseeable future.
Villa’s 2-1 defeat at Stoke on Saturday summed up their season to date; needlessly conceding soft goals and a toothless front line combined to see them slip to their 17th defeat of the season.
This game sees Remi Garde’s side return to Villa Park for the first time since their humiliating 6-0 defeat at the hands of Liverpool just over a fortnight ago; in all, the Villains have the worst home record in the Premier League, having taken just 10 points from 13 games on their own turf this term.
The hosts’ tally of 16 points from 27 games is the joint-fourth lowest in Premier League history, and although none of the teams directly above them gained any ground at the weekend, they remain eight points adrift of safety with time swiftly running out. Some fans are planning a walkout protest in this match to show their displeasure at owner Randy Lerner and the dire situation the club finds itself in.
Everton travel to the Midlands having not played a league match in over two weeks, when a drab 1-0 home defeat to West Brom stalled their momentum after consecutive 3-0 victories.
Roberto Martinez’s side are on a seven-game unbeaten run on the road, but five of those fixtures have ended with the points shared; 11 draws in all this season have held the Toffees back in their pursuit of European football.
Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley both scored braces in Everton’s 4-0 drubbing of Villa in the reverse fixture back in November; whether either of them will still be at Goodison Park next season if the club stays in the bottom-half remains to be seen, but a recent investment in the club from Iranian businessman Farhad Moshiri has provided some optimism for the Toffees faithful.
Forward Jordan Ayew is back in contention for the hosts after serving his three-game ban, but five first-teamers including midfielder Jack Grealish and winger Adama Traore remain out.
For the visitors, defender John Stones has overcome his hamstring injury and could play his first game in a month whilst striker Arouna Kone is back after illness. Midfielder Muhamed Besic nears a return, but will not feature at Villa Park.
League Positions: Aston Villa – 20th (16 pts); Everton – 12th (35 pts)
Previous Meeting: Everton 4-0 Aston Villa – November 21, 2015
League Form: Aston Villa – DDLWLL; Everton – DDLWWL
Key Players: Aston Villa – Scott Sinclair; Everton – Ross Barkley
Shoot Says: Aston Villa 0-2 Everton