Aston Villa manager Kevin MacDonald must be wondering if it's all worth it heading into what could be a very tough home game against Everton.The Scot celebrated his first game in temporary charge of the Birmingham outfit with a convincing 3-0 win on opening day over West Ham United. A hard-fought draw with Rapid Vienna in the Europa League was worthy of some celebration before things really came apart on Sunday on Tyneside.
Newcastle United ran riot at St James' Park, thrashing MacDonald's men 6-0. With a Europa League home defeat to their Viennese nemesis occurring on Thursday, the world is a grimmer place for Villa now. MacDonald is reputed to be more popular among his players than predecessor Martin O'Neill was, perhaps proving the point that you don't have to be liked to be good at your job.
Villa were pretty clueless against Rapid on Thursday night, conceding goals far too easily in a 3-2 defeat in which Stiliyan Petrov missed a penalty and Emile Heskey a sitter. Petrov provided little leadership in a shapeless looking side bereft of any real cutting edge up front and desperately needing someone who could pass the ball in the middle of the park.
A line-up shuffle would seem inevitable, particularly as the Villans have now conceded 20 goals in their last ten Premier League encounters.
Time for the Toffees to get on track
Everton meanwhile need a win to avoid their worst opening spell since 1999, the last time that they failed to record a win in their opening three Premier League fixtures.
Under David Moyes, starting slowly has sometimes been an issue for Everton, but at least this season he looks to have most of his key men fit after a clogged treatment room really hindered the Merseysiders last season.
An uncharacteristic error from Tim Howard cost them their opening day fixture at Blackburn Rovers, with a draw at home to Wolves following on from that. They warmed up for Villa though by hammering Huddersfield Town 5-1 in the League Cup on Wedenesday night, with key men such as Jack Rodwell, Louis Saha and Marouane Fellaini all getting on the scoresheet.
Those players will be keen to make up for some of last season's lost time during this campaign. A win at Villa would get things nicely on track.
Rapid exit | Now Villa need to generate some domestic cheer
John Carew, Richard Dunne and Gabriel Agbonlahor should all be back in contention after shaking off knee, back and calf problems, respectively.
Steve Sidwell (Achilles) and Andreas Weimann (ankle) both miss out.
MacDonald may feel the side needs a little fresh blood, and young Scot Barry Bannan might provide it. The diminutive midfielder has a fine left foot and the kind of determined attitude that will be needed in bucket-loads against the Toffees.
Possible Starting XI: Friedel; L Young, Dunne, Collins, Warnock; Kuyt, Petrov, Ireland, Bannan; A Young, Downing, Carew.
Nigerian trio Victor Anichebe, Aiyegbeni Yakubu and Joesph Yobo all miss out. Anichebe has an ongoing knee problem, whilst Yakubu has been struck down by illness. Yobo has picked up a thigh strain.
Phil Neville is doubtful with the foot problem that kept him out against Wolves and Huddersfield.
Possible Starting XI: Howard; Hibbert, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Pienaar, Heitinga, Arteta, Bilyaletdinov; Cahill; Saha.
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