Everton look to have good fortune again regarding an injury as they wait on left back Lucas Digne’s availability ahead of Friday’s clash with Aston Villa in the Midlands.
(Potential Starting XI)
Digne has been a fixture at left back since his arrival from Barcelona before last season and is Everton’s most dangerous defender in terms of offensive potential. He had four goals and four assists last season while providing crosses from the flank and serving as one of the Toffees’ designated takers for corner kicks.
The France international has assisted on Everton’s lone goal through the first two matches, picking out Bernardo with a 40-yard pass on the left flank before the winger did the rest of the work as he glided into the penalty area and cut back to his left before whipping a low shot inside the near post in the 10th minute.
That stood as the winner Saturday in Everton’s 1-0 victory over Watford as the Toffees also recorded their eighth shutout in 10 league matches dating back to last term.
Digne, though, was forced off on 73 minutes due to a knock – asking coach Marco Silva – to be replaced, but the Toffees boss sounded confident his first choice at left back will be available despite the short turnaround.
“We hope it is nothing really special,” Silva told Evertontv. “He started to feel a bit more tired (in the muscle) and gave the sign to me to make the change. Let’s see in the next few days (the extent of Digne’s problem) but we hope it is nothing special.”
Silva was fortunate with an injury situation last week when midfielder Andre Gomes was able to shake off an ankle injury to partner with Jean-Philippe Gbamin, who was replacing the suspended Morgan Schneiderlin.
Schneiderlin is available for selection in this match, which may result in summer signing Gbamin rejoining the reserves, but Silva likes what he has seen from the Toffees (1-1-0) thus far with no goals conceded through two matches and an ability to grind through adversity.
“This is a big change for us,” Silva added, knowing his team’s strong run to the tape last season also included losses at relegated Fulham and bottom-half Newcastle United. “We have to be mature in some moments. If you can perform well and win it is fantastic.
“In some moments you cannot … but it is important you keep your full focus and win even when you do not perform well, like in the second half. It was an important win and really important three points for us.”
Top summer signing and striker Moise Kean came off the bench for a second straight match, and the 19-year-old narrowly missed opening his account late with a shot that barely went wide. He likely will continue as understudy to Dominic Calvert-Lewin in Everton’s 4-2-3-1 formation.
Aston Villa (0-0-2) has endured a rocky return in their first top-flight matches since being relegated in 2016. The Villans’ home opener last Saturday was spoiled by Bournemouth with a 2-1 defeat as Dean Smith’s side fell behind by two goals in the first 12 minutes and never recovered.
The solace was Douglas Luiz scoring his first goal with the club, unleashing a pile-driver from 25 yards in the 71st minute after being played into space by Jack Grealish.
“We need to cut out the mistakes,” Grealish told the club’s official website. “We gave away a penalty and a deflected goal. As soon as we cut down the mistakes, we’ll be fine. I think that’s the difference between the Championship and the Premier League – nine times out of 10 you’re going to get punished.”
An early concern for Villa has been giving up goals in bunches. In their opening loss to Tottenham, they conceded all three goals in a 17-minute span, including two in four, and Bournemouth’s goals came 10 minutes apart.
This could be a cagey match given the team’s style regarding possession from their last match. Everton ceded a majority of the ball at home to Watford after controlling tempo at Crystal Palace to start the season. As would be expected, Aston Villa were forced to chase Tottenham Hotspur in their opener but had nearly two-thirds possession at home versus the Cherries and put seven shots on target.
Everton did an emphatic double over Villa the last time the teams were in the Premier League, scoring seven goals with only one in reply. That included a 3-1 triumph at Villa Park on goals by Ramiro Funes Mori, Aaron Lennon and Romelu Lukaku.
The Toffees are 6-4-1 in the last 11 meetings between the sides, racking up 27 goals in those matches, and 3-1-1 in their last five trips to the Midlands.
Odds and Ends, per Ladbrokes:
To Win: Aston Villa 21/10, Draw 12/5, Everton 6/5
Both Teams to Score: Yes 6/10, No 6/5
Over/Under 2.5 Goals: Over 8/11, Under Even
First Goal Scorer — Aston Villa: Wesley 13/2; Kodija and Trezeguet 15/2; Davis 8/1, McGinn 17/2
First Goal Scorer — Everton: Calvert-Lewin, Sigurdsson, Kean, Richarlison 5/1; Tosun 6/1
Anytime Goal Scorer — Aston Villa: Wesley 23/10; Kodija, Trezeguet 13/5; Davis 14/5; McGinn 3/1; El Ghazi, Jota 7/2
Anytime Goal-Scorer — Everton: Richarlison 7/4; Kean 9/5; Calvert-Lewin, Sigurdsson 15/8; Tosun 21/10
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Aston Villa 1, Everton 2.
PREDICTED HALFTIME SCORE: Aston Villa 0, Everton 1.
PREDICTED FIRST GOAL-SCORER: Gylfi Sigurdsson
OTHER EPL MATCH DAY 3 PREVIEWS
Brighton and Hove Albion (1-1-0) vs. Southampton (0-0-2)
Manchester United (1-1-0) vs. Crystal Palace (0-1-1)
Liverpool (2-0-0) vs. Arsenal (2-0-0)
Tottenham Hotspur (1-1-0) vs. Newcastle United (0-0-2)
(Lucas Digne photo courtesy Premier League official website)