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Aston Villa Must Unite to Beat Everton

Aston Villa are struggling under Gerard Houllier and the underachievement around the club is looking like resulting in mutiny among players and fans at Villa Park.

Last season Villa finished sixth and qualified for the Europa League, but by the end of August they had lost their mercurial manager in Martin O'Neill and also been knocked out of Europe.

Things have gone downhill since then and Villa boast a recent record of only one win in seven games in all competition. Successive disappointing defeats to Bolton and local rivals Wolves leave them sitting only one point above the relegation places, and Villa are 7/2 to get a win on Saturday with a draw priced at 13/5.

Off the field there are reports of in-fighting between the players and the coaching staff, while banners declaring "Houllier out" were unfurled during their last game at Villa Park.

Villa have eight matches left this season to preserve their Premier League status, starting with Saturday's trip to Goodison Park, and they will look to the England trio of Ashley Young, Stewart Downing and Darren Bent to inspire the troops, with Bent seen at 5/1 to get the first goal on Saturday.

The trio all impressed for their country during the international break and need to transfer that form to their club if Villa wish to stay above that dreaded bottom three.

For the first time in seemingly months Houllier has almost a fully-fit squad to choose from.

Defenders Richard Dunne and Luke Young – who scored the only goal when Villa beat Everton at Villa park in August - could return after periods on the sidelines, while the suspended Ciaran Clark is out and Kyle Walker remains doubtful.

David Moyes in the other dugout is struggling with Seamus Coleman, Jack Rodwell, Louis Saha, Mikel Arteta and Marouane Fellaini all missing, but the Toffees remain a dangerous threat to Villa.

Everton are unbeaten in seven matches at Goodison Park, stretching all the way back to November, while they have taken 10 points from the last 12 on offer in the Premier League. They are seen as 5/6 favourites with bookmakers to win this game.

Moyes' side look safe from a relegation battle but are nine points behind Spurs in fifth place, so there seems little chance of European qualification for them, meaning there could be little to play for over the remaining games.

This match is vitally important to Villa and it is the first of "eight cup finals" before the end of the season, according to veteran goalkeeper Brad Friedel.

He told Sky Sports News: "We've got enough quality in the changing room and we're confident to get the points on the board to stay in the Premier League.

"It's a shame we're in the position we're in. I can assure the fans that we're all pulling together as one. We're going to be taking these games incredibly seriously.

"We're determined to get enough points on the board to ensure our Premier League safety."

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