The views in these blogs are those held by the individual blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of Everton Football Club.
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Ahead of a big FA Cup tie, I suppose the last thing we needed was a number of our important players jetting to various corners of the globe and not returning to Finch Farm until the very latter stages of the week.
The only consolation for us has been the extra day courtesy of our wonderful television friends. Tim Howard and Tim Cahill, vital players for us on Sunday, are the ones who've had to endure endless hours collecting yet more air miles.
The international break debate will rumble on and on, particularly over friendlies. For me, I always find it a little difficult to get excited over a friendly encounter. I do understand the need for them but I'm sure over the course of a whole year there must be better dates in the calendar to fit in with the major European leagues.
Anyway, on to more important matters - we have a game this weekend and some significant others don't!!!
To be brutally honest, I've been somewhat surprised by Aston Villa's form this season. I think many agreed they'd be challenging for Europe but not the Champions League places.
Are they really that much better than us? To win seven away games on the trot in the top flight is quite an achievement (Arsenal and ourselves defeated by them in that run, of course). What they have is real pace of course and an ability to deliver quality from the flanks into the penalty area.
We though, have a much improved back line since our last meeting and that late, late heartbreak back in early December. Since then Villa are likely to have gained yet more confidence given their excellent form. However, they may well be ruing their over-zealous goal celebrations at the weekend which resulted in a booking for their influential skipper Gareth Barry, and a subsequent ban which rules him out of Sunday's match.
Despite all the aforementioned I still firmly believe we are more than capable of defeating them. They're not a side you look at with fear and trepidation. In fact, you know you'll probably get a decent game of football against Martin O Neill's side. Their manager has an incredible record as player and manager on his visits to Goodison Park (never beaten) so it's about time we put one over on him and came out on top. Our renewed belief in our home form will also be a telling factor come Sunday. I'm looking forward to it immensely.
Fianlly, a few words on the debut of our Brazilian loan signing Jo. An excellent performance, one which will instil in him the confidence which has obviously been lacking while he was up in Manchester. It was a more than competent debut, he looked comfortable on the ball, scored a brilliant first goal and took his penalty with some panache too.
Of course, Jo is missing for Sunday but I've every confidence that Tim Cahill can deliver the goods for us against Villa - maybe even Dan Gosling again!
A quarter final place is just what we deserve (and more) for a season that so far has seen us grow in resolve, belief and determination. Bring it on !!!
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