Everton visit Villa Park on Friday evening for their third league game of the season. Despite Villa losing their previous two fixtures, they have shown positive signs, and could cause Everton problems. Make sure to check out the to the Toffee TV YouTube channel:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5nXFX5ukfA&t=7s

Everton opened the season with a fairly disappointing 0-0 draw away at Crystal Palace, along with a slightly more impressive 1-0 win against Watford at home. The side has seemingly lacked creativity throughout much of both games, particularly centrally through the poorly performing Gylfi Sigurdsson, and the defensively positioned Andre Gomes. A reliance has been placed on creativity in wide areas, and this can be predictable at times. Furthermore the injury to Lucas Digne against Watford will be a worry, as he could miss Friday’s game.

Despite this, solid defensive performances from the likes of Michael Keane, Yerry Mina, and Jordan Pickford, have contributed to Everton picking up four points in the opening two games. The defensive displays appear to have continued from the end of last season, and Evertonians will be hoping this resumes.

Meanwhile, Villa began the season with a positive performance during an away defeat at Spurs. Although they lost the game, 3-1, Villa were in the lead for 64 minutes, before conceding in the 86th, and 90th minutes. Villa defended well throughout much of the game, with centre-back partners Bjorn Engels, and man-mountain Tyrone Mings, defending very capably. Mings in particular coped easily with aerial duels and crosses in to the box. This is something Everton should avoid if they’re to be successful on Friday evening.

After conceding two early goals against Bournemouth, in Villa’s second game of the season, they struggled to get back in to the game until late on. Part of the reason for Villa’s slow start to the season is perhaps due to the £127 million worth of new signings requiring time to settle. It’s likely that Villa will gradually improve whilst the new arrivals establish themselves.

Despite this, as well as a solid centre-back partnership and keeper (Tom Heaton), John McGinn and Jack Grealish have shown great individual quality and could provided the class needed to create opportunities against a well-organised Everton defence. New signing Douglas Luiz has also highlighted his quality, especially when scoring a ‘goal of the month’ contender against Bournemouth.

The talented Villa midfield may cause Everton some problems, with Grealish, McGinn, and Luiz threatening to create. All are very technical players, but may lack the physicality against a big Everton midfield. Having said this, they may have success through outnumbering Gomes and Gbamin, with Sigurdsson tending to play almost alongside Calvert-Lewin throughout most of the game. Wide players Trezeguet and El Ghazi could stretch the play at times, but Everton’s impressive defence should be good enough to hold out for yet another clean sheet.

Offensively, Everton should have space in the wide areas but shouldn’t resort to crosses into Calvert-Lewin as the only source of inspiration. More creativity is needed in central areas and Everton could do with Sigurdsson and Richarlison stepping up their levels of performance. Ultimately however, Everton should have enough quality to beat a decent Villa side. We could see Alex Iwobi make his debut from the bench, and if so, he could change the game with his pace and creativity. Further minutes will also benefit fellow new signings, Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Moise Kean.

Score prediction: Aston Villa 0-2 Everton

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BILLY MINSHALL