Martin O'Neill believes Everton will come to terms with the loss of star defender Joleon Lescott in the same way as Aston Villa recovered from the retirement of skipper and centre-back Martin Laursen.
The Toffees have made a stuttering start to the current campaign following Lescott's departure to Manchester City in a £24 million move, after edging out Villa and finishing fifth in the Barclays Premier League last season. O'Neill is a big admirer of Saturday's opponents and expects them to be challenging them again for a European spot by the time the season reaches its climax.
The former Celtic boss said: "It's been a really tough start for them. They were involved in the UEFA Cup and the last thing you want to do is have upheaval (with Lescott) particularly at that stage of the season."
He continued: "But I would say that they have shown a great resilience in the last couple of seasons.
"I thought by their own standards last season they got off to a stodgy start and I don't think that they could win at home for a while.
"But they fought back and ended up finishing fifth in the league and reaching the FA Cup final.
"I've got empathy for the situation (with Lescott) but I wouldn't start feeling too sorry for them and they will be up there challenging again.
"Yes, it is a stodgy period for them but my view is that, if any side is capable of pulling out of it, outside the top four, it is Everton."
O'Neill added: "You have to get over the loss of players. We've lost Gareth Barry and Martin Laursen. It's been mentioned that losing Laursen is comparable to losing Lescott and they're definite losses.
"But once they're gone, you've got to get over it - although I would say Laursen's loss to us in the latter half of the season was particularly damaging."
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