Everton vs. Aston Villa: EPL Match Preview, Analysis and Predictions

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterSeptember 8, 2011

Everton vs. Aston Villa: EPL Match Preview, Analysis and Predictions

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    The lousy international break is over and this weekend Everton and Aston Villa will lock horns in the Barclays Premier League once more.

    The two will play out the Premier League's most played fixture at Goodison Park on the 10th September at 3:00 PM.

    Traditionally, this game is never boring. There's always goals and there's always excitement. In the last two or three seasons, Everton and Aston Villa have been very closely matched in skill, making these games all the more intense, almost like a rivalry of sorts.

    Let's take a look at key players, key battles and possible outcomes.

Two Key Players for Everton

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    This slide would have looked quite different a week ago.

    Before transfer deadline day, two other names might have appeared here. However, having lost their play maker and last season's top goal scorer, two more must come to fore.

    No matter what the circumstances, Leighton Baines is always a massive threat. His left foot is pure magic and you'd be foolish to give away a set piece near the box when facing this guy. He does an admirable job of enthusing the team from the not-so-influential position of left-back.

    New kid on the block Ross Barkley is my other pick for key player. Most had no idea who he was until he dazzled and dazed QPR in their opening fixture of the season and he started the subsequent game against Blackburn Rovers. Having just earned junior international recognition, this guy is having a very good month.

Two Key Players for Aston Villa

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    Villa had a very different deadline day to Everton, bolstering their squad with two new recruits from Tottenham Hotspur.

    The first key player is Darren Bent. Like Leighton Baines, he pulled out of the England squad during training with a groin strain but is expected to be fit for the clash. He scored a brace last season at Goodison and his goals are vital to Villa.

    Secondly, when Paul McGrath applauds you and states, "Richard Dunne congratulations. The Best performance I have seen from any Irish centre half and that includes myself," you tend to sit up and take notice.

    Dunne's performance midweek against Russia was absolutely sublime. If he carries that forward into the weekend game, Everton will have one hell of a 90 minutes trying to find a way past him without Jermaine Beckford.

Key Battle #1

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    There's going to be some incredibly interesting battles on the pitch on Saturday.

    The first battle pits new signees against one another. Royston Drenthe, arriving on a season long loan deal from Real Madrid on deadline day, will be pitted against new Aston Villa acquisition Alan Hutton. Both will be eager to impress on their debuts and it will be an intriguing battle.

    Drenthe is known for his trickery and speed on the left wing and having watched Alan Hutton in action for Scotland this week, I'd say Drenthe is the favourite to prosper. There are concerns amongst many Villa fans about Hutton's defending and if there was ever a baptism by fire, this was it.

    With Baines also on that left side, it will be up the Aston Villa right winger—be it Marc Albrighton, Charles N'Zogbia or whoever else—to take their defensive responsibilities seriously and track back to help.

    The post-match heat map will be glowing red down that side of the pitch.

Key Battle #2

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    With Villa's goalscoring hopes mainly entrenched on one man, it will be a real test for the Everton defence on Saturday afternoon if Darren Bent is passed fit.

    While many have seen Bent as underrated over the years, he is starting to move away from that tag with plenty of fans acknowledging that his finishing skills are up there with the best.

    With Bent on the pitch, defenders' concentration spans are run ragged as he torments them all game, moves with agility and invariably gets to the ball first. Everton's top central defensive man Phil Jagielka will know he is in for a tough afternoon but has the experience and skill to control Bent should he be on his game.

    It will be an intriguing battle that could signal the difference between one and three points for either team. 

Prediction Time

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    Calling this matchup is always tough.

    Both teams have lost their best player this summer but each looks in solid shape (on the pitch at least).

    In the last several seasons, Everton have not taken away many three-point hauls from this fixture, if any. The 08-09 last gasp winner from Ashley Young at Goodison is still fresh in my mind and despite Everton typically dominating the Villa Park fixture, the Claret & Blue side nearly always emerge with at least a point.

    In light of the unsettling circumstances at Everton thanks to transfer deadline day, I'm going to plug for:

    Everton 0-1 Aston Villa (Bent)

    Such an even contest could go either way, however and draw is probably the bookies' favourite. What's the fun in predicting a draw though?