Belfast Telegraph

Sherwood not taking Toffees lightly

Boss Tim Sherwood admits he is wary of in-form Everton but insisted Aston Villa are ready to forget their Manchester City frustration.

The Toffees have won five of their last six Barclays Premier League games, drawing the other, ahead of their Villa Park clash on Saturday.

They comfortably beat Manchester United 3-0 last week while Villa slipped to a battling 3-2 defeat at the Etihad.

Other results have left Villa just two points above the relegation zone with four games left.

"I could have hand-picked at least five other teams who I would like to come here rather than Everton," Sherwood said.

"They are the form team in the league. They played very well (against Manchester United), they broke very well and they can cause a lot of teams problems. They've got some exceptional players.

"The mindset is that we're disappointed on the back of a defeat. When you lose you just want to put it to the back of your mind as soon as you can.

"You can't, though, at this stage of the season because you have to wait another week before you put it away.

"We went there and had them on the back foot for 85 minutes. If we continue with that level of performance I'm confident we will be OK."

Alan Hutton is back in training following an ankle injury and will be assessed ahead of the Toffees' visit while Philippe Senderos could feature after a thigh problem, but Nathan Baker and Ciaran Clark (both knee) are out.

Goalkeeper Shay Given is pushing to start after Brad Guzan's error gifted Sergio Aguero Manchester City's opener last week and Sherwood admitted he has a decision to make.

He said: "It was an obviously an error from Brad and he recognises that. There were other errors made on the field. When you're a goalkeeper, you're in the firing line.

"I've always got decisions to make about the goalkeepers. I've said that about all the players. There's a lot of players competing for places. Everyone has got a right and an opportunity to start."

Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor is not ready to return to action. The forward has been out with a hamstring injury which also forced him to miss both the FA Cup semi-final win over Liverpool and last weekend's narrow loss to Manchester City but has yet to return to training.

Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar will miss the trip as he sits out a third successive match because of a muscle injury.

Utility player Bryan Ovideo's season is over after he broke a metatarsal in training, joining midfielder Darron Gibson on the sidelines with a similar problem. Defender Tony Hibbert is the other long-term absentee.

Everton head to Aston Villa on Saturday as the Premier League's form team after five wins and a draw.

Last season they took 21 points from the final 10 matches and the fact they are replicating those results is a positive for boss Roberto Martinez.

"It is about being consistent with your work on a daily basis," he said.

"If you look at the players there is a really good balance of being fresh and physically strong enough.

"I think to be able to finish the season strongly is vital as the final 30 points is when you are fighting for what you want to achieve in the league.

"It is very pleasing because it is a real test of the staff at the club and the professionalism of our players and that is pleasing."

Not so long ago Everton were threatened with being dragged into a relegation battle but those fears were banished pretty quickly and Swansea, in eighth six points ahead, are now in their sights.

"It is an important moment of our season. Tenth is a spot that six games ago it looked unthinkable," said the Toffees boss.

"At the moment we are not looking at positions in the table, we are just trying to make sure we carry on with the run."


From Belfast Telegraph