Aston Villa-Everton Preview
By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN
STATS Senior Writer
(AP) -- A humiliated Everton may not have a welcome return to the pitch on Saturday at home against an Aston Villa side that have enjoyed a seven-game Premier League unbeaten run at Goodison Park.
Everton were once again dominated in a Merseyside derby in midweek, falling 4-0 to Liverpool and missing out on a chance to overtake the Reds. Roberto Martinez's side sit in sixth place on 42 points.
To add injury to insult, striker Romelu Lukaku was carried off on a stretcher but has avoided a serious ankle injury. Martinez said "there is no ligament damage and the injury is not as bad as we first thought."
The boss has called on the Toffees to use the defeat to make them stronger.
"We had a real disappointment on Tuesday because we know how important the derby is," Martinez said. "But in the same manner, we are still in that privileged group in the league of having only three defeats so far and that's something that shows how well we've done this season and now is a moment when we want to rely on our fans ... and now we've got 14 more opportunities to keep adding (points) and to keep getting stronger."
Villa have won twice and drawn five times in their last seven Premier League trips to Goodison Park. This fixture has resulted in a draw the last four times, with these sides sharing six goals on Feb. 2, 2013.
That contest featured a brace from Lukaku's Belgian team-mate, Christian Benteke.
Benteke scored in his third straight match with the winning penalty in the 64th minute in Wednesday's thrilling 4-3 home victory over West Bromwich Albion in a West Midlands derby.
"I think his general game is pleasing, that's the thing that's pleasing me, his general game is getting back to where it was, his goals are starting to flow," manager Paul Lambert said.
The Villans went behind by two goals after nine minutes and then scored the next three before conceding Youssouf Mulumbu's equaliser in the 43rd minute. Benteke drew the penalty when he was hauled to the ground by Diego Lugano and slotted home to take his Premier League haul to seven.
"To go down 2-0 in a derby was a bolt there but all credit to the team, the response was fantastic," Lambert said.
Villa had scored in 18 straight matches in all competitions versus Everton before a 2-0 home defeat Oct. 26. Benteke had a penalty saved by Tim Howard
Martinez expects an even greater challenge in containing Villa this time.
"We all know that Aston Villa, they bring an incredible bravery in the way they play," Martinez said. "Obviously they've got a really good attacking force, they're a team that they're always very, very dangerous in the counter-attack. So it's going to be an open game straightaway."
Defenders Seamus Coleman and Sylvain Distin remain out for Everton.
Aston Villa's Gabriel Agbonlahor sat out Wednesday with an ankle injury while Nathan Baker (concussion), Chris Herd (hamstring) and Joe Bennett (back) are all out.
This matchup features United States international goalkeepers in Howard and Villa's Brad Guzan. Howard is tied for second in the Premier League with nine clean sheets.
Updated January 30, 2014