Villarreal are off to Liverpool for a friendly match against Everton F.C. at Goodison Park. Our yellow club is beginning to settle into a serious mindset as the season inches closer, with just a couple of weeks before the first whistle is blown. In an effort to get ready for La Liga and Champions League action, Villarreal will be taking on a couple of tough English sides, starting with the Toffees on August 5th.
Over the next few days, we will have a bit of cross-posting fun with the folks over at RoyalBlueMersey.com, a fellow SBNation blog that supports the Merseysiders. This is the first of those installments in the pre-match buildup, a bit of background on the Everton club and a look at how things have been going lately. Of course, don't call me an expert, though, and if I missed anything or botched anything, as I am sure I did, feel free to lambast me below. You can expect some Q-and-A's and some other back-and-forth with the Everton site between now and Saturday.
Everton deserves a ton of respect. The club has a tremendous history, founded all the way back in 1878, before most of our great great grandparents were even twinkles in our great great great grandparents eyes, Everton have played more seasons in the top flight in England than any other club. They have won the English top-flight title 9 times, most recently in 1986-1987. Last year, the club finished 7th in the Premier League, missing out on European qualification.
Perhaps the thought that comes to mind most readily for Villarreal fans when they think of Everton is the Champions League play-off the two sides matched up in at the beginning of the 2005-2006 year. Villarreal won 4-2 on aggregate, beating Everton 2-1 in each match, and used that momentum to make a name for themselves in Europe by making it through to the semi-finals. But Everton fans were not too happy following the return leg at El Madrigal. I did not get to see the match, so I cannot make a fair comment, but the gist of the controversy was that, with the score tied 1-1 late in the match in Vila-real, Duncan Ferguson headed home a goal that seemed to tie up the play-off. Unfortunately for the Toffees, Gonzalo had gone down under pressure from Ferguson (by Everton accounts, sans foul), and the official disallowed the goal. Diego Forlan went on to cap the victory off shortly thereafter, and the rest is history. Needless to say, I do not see that match having too big of an impact six years later when the teams meet in a preseason friendly.
Most Americans will be very familiar to one of Everton's stars - goalkeeper Tim Howard. Howard has played with Everton since the 2006-2007 season, establishing himself as one of the top keepers in England, and in the process making himself a fixture of the US Men's National team. Everton have quite a few other well-known names in their squad, including the ageless defender Phil Neville, co-vice-captains Mikel Arteta and Tim Cahill, and forward Louis Saha.
I could not begin to give an adequate description up and down Everton's lineup, but our friends at RoyalBlueMersey.com have done that for us. Check out their four-part series:
Everton's Offseason To Date
This has been a relatively quiet summer for Everton to date on the Transfer front. They have had no major losses or big pickups, but there have been rumors of late that could change that. Of course, readers of this site know that for a while Mikel Arteta has been rumored as a potential Santi Cazorla replacement. That rumor has been deemed relatively unlikely due to Arteta's age and injury status, but is still a possibility. Of perhaps bigger concern for Everton is the pressure Arsenal is putting on them to sell central defender Phil Jagielka. Most recently, Jagielka has snubbed the Gunners interest, but we all know what can happen when enough money is put on the table.
Their preseason schedule has not been all that friendly so far. The club was a bit embarrassed after falling to the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer 1-0 two weeks ago. Coverage of the match suggested that they deserved a draw, but I can guarantee you that deserving a draw against an MLS side is not the way a team that has dreams of making it back into the Champions League wants a match to end, preseason or not.
Everton did manage to turn things around a bit a few days later when they took care of DC United by a 1-3 scoreline. Everton saw goals from Victor Anichebe, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, and Magaye Gueye in the match. The consensus was that the team played much better in their second friendly, as could be expected.
Everton followed up the DC United win with a 2-1 victory over Birmingham City. Most recently, Everton were disappointed in their trip to Germany to take on Werder Bremen. The club fell to the German side 1-0, and did not seem to have things together. I hope and expect the Toffees to have turned things around by this weekend when they are back in their home stadium, and that they play their best against a Villarreal side in which there are still a number of position battles taking place.
Look for more in this space over the next few days in the leadup to the match. ENDAVANT VILLARREAL!