Friday night sees Villa Park play host to England’s most played league fixture as Aston Villa take on Everton. This will be the 203rd top-flight meeting between the sides, with each desperate for three points, even this early in the season.
Victory for Marco Silva’s Toffees could lift them to the top of the Premier League table for the first time since August 2007, consolidating a decent start to the campaign for the Merseysiders, whilst Villa continue to seek their first points since returning to the top flight after a three-year absence.
Both teams come into the match on the back of differing form.
Everton remain the only Premier League team yet to concede a goal so far this season and will be hoping to grind out another positive result following their first win of the season at home to Watford last Saturday.
Villa, meanwhile, will be looking to shake off an inauspicious start which has seen two defeats and questions raised around the estimated £127m spent on summer acquisitions, including Douglas Luiz and club-record signing Wesley Moraes.
Dean Smith's side will be eager to put a remarkable run of bad form behind them, having lost 14 of their previous 15 top-flight matches, the second-longest such run in the club's history. Smith himself remains bullish about his side's opening to the season:
"We're creating chances, we just need to start taking them […] the first game was tough, and we were 2-0 down after 15 minutes against Bournemouth but [Wesley] showed enough and he never hides away from the ball; he goes and competes. He’s already created enough chances for other people to be scoring. We’ve played two games; he’ll get better and better.”
Everton haven't started a league campaign with three successive clean sheets since 1912, yet have made an impressive start to the season, with two shutouts so far making it 12 clean sheets in 2019 - only Manchester City (13) have more. They will be confident of adding Villa to a growing list of scalps on Friday, with a win taking them top of the league for the first time in over a decade. Manager Marco Silva was quick to downplay his side's opportunity:
"It [going top of the league] would be good but we have to prove we are able to do that […] in our minds we just have to respect [Villa] and go there with desire and commitment to win."
Kortney Hause has returned to fitness for the hosts, though Jonathan Kodjia is not yet match fit and James Chester (hamstring) remains sidelined. Summer signings Frédéric Guilbert, Matt Targett and Marvelous Nakamba – all yet to feature - could be in contention for their debuts.
Everton’s Lucas Digne has recovered from a thigh strain suffered last weekend and Leighton Baines is also fit again. Fabian Delph is out of contention to feature against his former club with a pelvic injury, whilst Morgan Schneiderlin returns after serving a one-match suspension.
Keep up with VAVEL’s live text commentary of the match from 19:00 GMT, Friday 23rd August.