Boxing day was full of surprises. All the title contenders dropped points barring Manchester City and Everton. However, this mouth-watering midweek clash would serve as an impetus to make a statement in this premier league campaign. Everton and Manchester City sit 2nd and 6th respectively in the premier league table(Albeit city does have a game in hand). With the champions dropping points last night there couldn’t be a better chance to climb up the table. This game will be season-defining.
The build-up to this match is pretty plain actually, however the repercussions – not so much. With a win Everton could go level on points with Liverpool at the top of the table and City on the other hand could go second – within 3 points off the top with 29pts. Everton was 15th in the table when Carlo Ancelloti took over last season. They sit 2nd now. That’s what legendary managers do. Turn the fortunes around. The Toffees have never been in a better position in the recent past. They have won their last 4 games and come into this match with a better form than their counterparts who have somewhat had a patchy streak going on this season. Manchester City have been largely inconsistent, and if it’s not their day then they would inevitably drop points. The Toffees would sense blood – they’ve become adept at doing that under Carlo.
The Toffees have won 68 of the previous 188 games played with Man city, drawing 47 of them and further losing 73. The clubs have had a resurgence in their financial fortunes which makes this match imperative.
Everton Form Guide : W-W-W-W-D
Man City Form Guide : W-W-D-D-W
Team News And Tactics
Injuries : Allan, James Rodriguez, Richarlison.
Everton is a prime example of a perfect Ancelotti side. They aren’t exactly a counter-attacking side. They aren’t a direct footballing side too. Also, they do not play the possession-based controlled attacking style that City display week in week out. Ancelloti likes to change styles as per the opponent they face. For instance, Everton set up very defensively against Liverpool having only 5 shots on target out of which 3 were out of the box. However, against Leicester and Arsenal, they had a perfect counter-attacking style which won them the games. Ancelloti’s side never enjoys a lot of freedom on the ball but they are definitely not goal-shy. They had only a couple of shots on target against Arsenal but they made them count.
Everton are exactly the kind of team City have fallen prey to this season. Tottenham and Leicester should remind Pep that low block playing counter-attacking teams are the ones that frustrate the life out of city.
We expect Everton to line up in their traditional 4-2-3-1 formation. With Allan and missing out due to injury, midfield powerhouse Doucoure would partner with Gomes who’d inject some creativity in the middle of the part. Iwobi would retain his place with Rodriguez out due to injury and Coleman would be reinstated at the right-back position. Bernard is also expected to start after starting on the bench last weekend against Sheffield United.
Injuries: Kyle Walker, Gabriel Jesus, Eric Garcia
Pep’s system has changed this season. Man City are very conservative in their style now. The double-pivot of Rodri and Gundo have done wonders in preventing cheap counter attacks, however, it has stifled the free-flowing attack that City have come to prowess in the recent past. City boasts the best defensive record so far in the top 5 leagues of European football. City have also been uncharacteristically goal shy with Sterling, Jesus, and De Bruyne in particular – guilty of missing a plethora of goal-bound chances. If City are to beat Everton tonight, they have to be courageous in front of the goal. The players have to take responsibility.
Pep will go with the recent 4-2-3-1 / 4-2-1-3 formation that serves to provide greater defensive support. With Walker and Jesus out due to Covid, expect Cancelo and Aguero to start respectively. With Aguero back, we expect City to finally start firing as per their usual selves. Cancelo was terrific against West Brom and would only help the cause if he remains consistent. Gundogan has become undroppable owing to his recent form. It would only make sense for Pep to allow him to continue with his impeccable form. However, with Everton providing a bigger threat as a clinical counter-attacking side, Fernandinho might be allowed to start. Nonetheless, we expect Gundogan to continue with his fine form. With Ake’s fitness, a major concern Pep should start Mendy who was benched in the previous gameweek. Keeping in mind that Mahrez scored the winner that last season against Everton, we expect Mahrez to come back in the side after being rested against West Brom. On his day, Mahrez is unplayable.
- Everton have lost their last five matches against Manchester City, their longest sequence of defeats in 121 years of this top-flight fixture.
- Everton have won four successive league games for the first time since the opening four fixtures of the season. They have conceded just one goal during that run.
- Manchester City is unbeaten in 10 matches in all competitions, winning seven and drawing three.
- Manchester City have kept 13 clean sheets in all competitions this season, more than any other team in the top five European leagues.
- Dominic Calvert-Lewin has failed to score in five appearances after recording 14 goals in his opening 13 games. Meanwhile, Sergio Aguero has failed to score in his last 10 Premier League appearances.
Players to watch out for
Kevin De Bryune
Has been having a quiet season by his standards. But never in doubt really. He’ll provide something or the other every time. He will be willing to prove his doubters wrong after missing a number of good chances this season. Again, needs to be at his very best to help his team make a statement win.
Is a player reborn this season? Rarely puts a foot wrong and provides a greater attacking threat than his English contemporary in Walker. Was in fine form against West Brom and we expect him to play a big role in this fixture.
Has already scored 11 goals in the league this season, assisting a further 2. A big threat in the air. Will cause troubles for the city defense with his movement.
Captain fantastic. Very consistent with his performances at right-back. Always tries to get forward and create something. Will either foul or get fouled. A clever player who needs to be at his best tonight.
With a win, either side could make a huge statement in this season’s race for the title. This is the kind of fixture where other teams would hope for a draw with both City and Everton dropping points. The table at the top is heavily congested and any points dropped will prove very very costly. Something City, with their ambitions, cannot afford. It’s a must-win game for City while for Everton, a win will cement their status as title contenders. Top game and the teams need a top result.
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