This preview comes just after February 6th, the 56th anniversary of the Munich air disaster. Needless to say that our thoughts are with Manchester United once more as they remember the loss of a great group of players, as well as the crew and press that also perished. The most tragic footballing repercussion is that the Busby Babes were never able to fulfil their potential; the thought of what might have been is often more painful than any point in time.

On a totally different scale, we were left wondering if we would have to rue labours lost after the Anfield Shambles – no longer a nickname just for Djimi Traore. Aston Villa at home seemed an easy prospect – 1-0 down at home to a seemingly impenetrable Villa side with just over quarter of an hour left is a different prospect entirely. We did what we had to do, and we did it well. Pienaar’s flick of subtle genius, Naismith’s assured finish, and Kevin Mirallas being Kevin Mirallas. It all fell into place. No wonder our Roberto was so delighted after the game.

Kevin Mirallas

But that oft-quoted expression is that there is no game more important than the next one. So let’s move on, Blues. White Hart Lane, that office block with a roof missing, is where we travel next, to face a Spurs side entirely different to the one who participated in a 0-0 draw we all want to forget. If you had forgotten, and I just reminded you, sorry. That side was managed by Andre Villas-Boas, a man who seemed to pride himself on getting very confused about even the simplest things. Spurs collapsed against Liverpool, allowing the redsh*te to thrash them. What sad excuse for a team could allow-

-oh, right. That Tuesday where my hypnotist informs me NOTHING OF PARTICULAR INTEREST OCCURRED. Whatever. Tim Sherwood’s the boss now, and he’s trying to make Spurs emulate a Premier League-winning side. Unfortunately for them it’s the Blackburn side of ’94/’95 he’s trying to copy, and as a result they’ve got more holes in their defence than Purple Aki’s tank-top after a strenuous night out. Sherwood will probably last until Daniel Levy finds a cheap new boss who looks better to the press. Can you imagine having a chairman so tight that he would-

-oh right. Anyway, they’ve set up a 4-4-2 system which allows a lot of attacking impetus, but it’s a naive system which can be exploited by a packed midfield and a resolute defence. Hugo Lloris has got over those dizzy spells and keeps goal, but it’s the defence that’s interesting. £100m spent in the summer, but they’ll have to go with Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen and Rose. The centre backs have quality but those full backs are there to be got at. Paulinho is a bit of quality, and Sherwood rates Nabil Bentaleb so the youngster will push on and support the advanced midfielders, possibly Townsend and the creative force of Christian Eriksen. Roberto Soldado has been awful recently so put him down as first goalscorer. Emmanuel Adebayor’s form oscillates between “sh*te” and “alright”; he’s in the latter right now, so we’ll have to work hard to prevent him from scoring in two successive home games against us.

Onto the Blues. The beauty of this one is we actually have quite a roster to choose from, which makes my so-called “job” a bit harder. Tim Howard in goal is the one certainty, as well as Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka in defence. It seems Sylvain Distin and Seamus Coleman will both be fit, which is a massive boost. John Stones has a lot of talent but has seemed rusty at right-back in the last couple of games. He’s being moulded into a quality centre back, but versatility is an admirable assert.

McCarthy & BarryGareth Barry and James McCarthy just go together, don’t they? Morecambe and Wise. Fish and chips. Gaz Baz and Duracell McCarthy. They’ve both grown more confident going forward but are getting caught out a bit too much. Aston Villa’s goal is an example. It’s great to see trust in players like Ross Barkley, but we’ve had just one clean sheet in our last ten league games – that needs to stop. Steven Pienaar bounced back well against Villa, so he’ll start. And we’ve got choices. Ross Barkley or Leon Osman in the middle…Barkley’s not at his best right now but that’s natural after an injury – the difference he makes should see him start. Aiden McGeady’s doing well on the right, and Kevin Mirallas is having a stormer, but the latter prefers playing on the right. Steven Naismith’s in good form, so we could well see Mirallas on the right and Naismith up top.

Look at the bench though, there’s a bench! Joel, Stones, Hibbert, Osman or Barkley, McGeady or Naismith, Deulofeu, Traore. Magical. Alcaraz won’t feature. But Roberto Martinez can turn to the bench and see players with game-changing ability.

We’ve had a fair bit to talk about this week. Firstly, the Umbro deal. We wouldn’t have done it unless it is of more benefit than the Nike deal. Imagine Everton doing something that wasn’t in everyone’s best interests financially, eh?

-oh right. You better have been keeping an eye on us on Twitter too (@EvertonArentWe – you know the score) and an interesting discussion arose over “true” and “fake” fans. I’m going to throw in my opinion without anyone asking for it and without any sense of expertise, but here goes. The two most important things in a fan are passion and knowledge. Passion can manifest itself in so many ways, from buying a shirt to going to games home and away. Knowledge is about understanding the game, knowing the club and the values we have always stood for. Take that as you will.

Prince Rupert's TowerWhat I’ve enjoyed most is the regular publicity gambits, from the Fan XI at the Umbro launch to Roberto turning Prince Rupert’s Tower blue. He’s everywhere, which is a breath of fresh air. Probably for him too. “Sorry love, you’re on the nappies again, I’ve got to go make more Evertonians fall in love with me.” Mission accomplished. It’s that attitude that makes me the happy-clappy bastard I am in these previews. I can’t help but feel good thinking about Everton. Pain is temporary. Everton is permanent.

(Yes, I hope the irony of “Everton” and “permanent” hasn’t escaped you.)

Every week we’re going to say that the next game is vital, the most important of the season. It is; not because any single game that isn’t a Cup final has special gravitas, but that the next game is the most important. We’re always reminded of the great tragedy of failing to fulfil potential – this is another chance to do what we can to make sure this Everton side becomes the team we know they can be.


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