Everton face the short, but daunting trip to the Champions of England, Manchester City on Saturday afternoon. Everton will be hoping to stop the slide of recent results where draws are crippling there chances of Champions League football, and it was further compounded on Wednesday night, where despite creating the better chances, failed to take them and had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Arsenal. That draw meant in the last 8 games, they have drawn 6, and as a result have slipped to 6th behind Spurs. Meanwhile for the defending champions, with all the negative media coverage they have received this season, you would think they are in some crisis and struggling, while that may be the case in the Champions League, there domestic form has been as solid as ever, so much so, they are currently 20 games unbeaten and extended that streak midweek with a tough 2-0 win away at Wigan, a result that showed the Champion mentality. Both sides will be looking at the 3pts, with 3pts being vital for Everton’s chase for 4th, and for City, well they need to maintain the chase on their rivals for 1st.
Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar reflected on the past few matches and the upcoming trip to Manchester saying
“If you look at the last two games, [our play] was much better, Against Reading we just gave it away and it was unprofessional the way we went about things, and Saturday was one of those games when we were not switched on at the end. That`s the best thing about football – the games come quickly and you can always set it straight. We`re fortunate we`re in a job when if you make a mistake you can make up for it the next game and now we`ll look to go one better at City.”
Manchester City and England international Gareth Barry praised his side following his sides 2-0 win on Wednesday saying
‘The first-half was so tough and the pitch was so hard-going and there were a lot of stray passes but we ground it out in the second half. It was a professional job, We have to give Wigan credit, they play with a different formation than we`re used to playing against, with five at the back which becomes a three and in the second half we stepped it up and the manager changed it about a bit, You see a lot of good teams come here and slip up, so we`re delighted to come out with a huge result.”
Man City Team News:
Manchester City also had an injury concern following the win at Wigan, with James Milner suffering a hamstring injury and will miss the match on the weekend. Mancini could be tempted into resting some key players, with a hectic schedule after the game, with games against Dortmund and the big showdown with arch-rivals United next weekend.
Possible Starting XI: Hart, Kolarov, Kompany, Nastasic, Zabaleta, Garcia, Barry, Silva, Yaya Toure, Tevez, Aguero
Player to watch: Yaya Toure
Although the likes of Silva and Aguero cannot be ignored, the influence of the big man cannot be under estimated, after watching them a few times, this lad is the heartbeat of this team, if Toure is firing on all cylinders, then it is close to impossible to beat this side. He, much like Fellaini, are one of the few players who can influence a game on both ends, defensively he is very good, but going forward he gives teams so much problems with his powerful runs. If Everton can stop the Ivory Coast man, then it could go a long way in them getting a result.
Everton Team News:
The big concern for Everton will be the fitness of left back Leighton Baines after David Moyes revealed he sustained a hamstring strain midweek, the club have listed him as doubtful for the match. In some good news for the club, it looks like Belgian Kevin Mirallas could be in line for a return after overcoming a hamstring problem. Everton also welcomed back during the week, Darron Gibson and Tony Hibbert after long lay offs. Everton will still be without captain Phil Neville with a knee injury and Victor Anichebe who has a hamstring problem.
Possible Starting XI: Howard, Distin, Heitinga, Jagielka, Hibbert, Gibson, Osman, Pienaar, Mirallas, Fellaini, Jelavic
Player to watch: Marouane Fellaini
For Everton to get a result in this game, the big man is going to have to play his best game of the season, and that is a tough ask given just how good he has been this season. Not only going forward is he going to have to hold the ball u and allow the likes of Osman, Pienaar and Mirallas to get forward, he will also ned to be a goal threat, something he has added to his repertoire this season, but the big thing is, he is going to have to have a big game defensively, he will need to probably track back and try to reduce the influence of their tricky midfielders.
Match Facts & Stats
1. This game pits the two most attacking sides in the league, with Everton number 1 with shots on target with 92, closely followed by Manchester City on 91.
2. Manchester City are currently 36 games unbeaten at the Etihad (33 wins, 3 draws), however, Everton were the last team to beat City at the Etihad, back in December 2010
3. Everton are a kind of bogey team for Manchester City, Everton have won 8 out of the last 10 meetings between the two sides.
4. In the last 8 games, Fellaini has 5 goals and 3 assists to his name.
5. Everton have scored 67% of their goals in the 1st half, meanwhile, City have scored 74% of their goals in the 2nd half.
Despite our domination of City over the past few years, this is a fixture I am not looking forward to, this has only been compounded by the fact that it looks like Baines will miss the match. Baines is a massive loss, not only because he is strong defensively, but going forward, he is unmatched by anyone (leads EUROPE in chances created) and his delivery from set pieces is up there with the best. Fellaini and Pienaar are going to need a massive game if we are to even get a draw from this game. It is going to be interesting to see Moyes’ tactics, this season he has adopted a more free flowing, attacking football style, whether he continues that at City is to be seen, but I think it is our best shot, defensively we are all over the shop, and can’t see us holding that City attack for the full 90mins. I unfortunately think City will win 2-0, with Aguero and Dzeko on the scoresheet. COME ON EVERTON, PROVE ME WRONG!!!!!