Carsley ready for Villa 'cup final'
Everton have spent the season striving to reach a cup final and Lee Carsley believes their Premier League clash with Aston Villa will certainly feel like one.
Back in August manager David Moyes insisted clubs like Everton, who were just outside the cusp of the top four, should aim to reach major cup finals.
The Toffees reached the Carling Cup semi-finals only to lose to Chelsea and deserved to go further in the UEFA Cup than the last 16 after they were eliminated by Fiorentina on penalties.
And they also beat Zenit St Petersburg in the group stages, with the Russians now also a good bet to be facing the Florence club at the City of Manchester Stadium on May 14.
They suffered a shock home defeat to Oldham in the FA Cup but the Blues now have the dubious compensation of a winner-takes-all clash at Goodison Park with resurgent Aston Villa.
Win that and Everton can be almost certain of qualifying for the UEFA Cup in fifth spot but lose and the midlanders will be above them in the table and heading for Europe themselves.
'It is a cup final of sorts,' Carsley said.
'We have been saying that for a number of weeks and they are all massive games now.
'But these games are enjoyable. We are down to the nitty-gritty now with three games to go. We are all geared towards winning the last three games and that is our plan.
'I keep reading that Villa are looking forward to coming to Goodison Park. But I'm not sure about that.
'If they are being honest, they aren't looking forward to coming here at all. Not many teams win here, not many teams even do well at Goodison. So I can't wait for Villa to arrive.'
But with just one win in six league games since that unlucky defeat by Fiorentina last month, Everton know they must get their form back on track with tough games against Arsenal and Newcastle to follow the Villa clash.
And a return to scoring form by Ayegbeni Yakubu would also help - the Nigeria international has scored only once in his last five games, when he grabbed his 19th goal of the campaign against West Ham on March 22.
Yakubu's international team-mate Joseph Yobo admits to having tried hard to encourage him as he struggles with a goal drought.
'I have spoken to Yak because - like everyone else - he has not been the same since we got knocked out of Europe,' Yobo said.
'Yak has not scored for a few games but others need to score as well. With strikers it is all about confidence.
'If Yak gets a goal in the first half on Sunday he will change the game completely.
'You never know what he is going to do next on the pitch and that is why I have got no doubt that goals are still going to come before the end of the season.
'He knows Aston Villa is a big game for us and he is ready to step up for it.
'If you watch Yak in training, he scores goals for fun. He makes finishing look so easy. He will miss a few, of course, but he does not miss many.
'If he gets a couple of chances against Villa, you know he is going to slide on in. We have got to make sure the service is good, he has got to find the space.'