This Sunday northwestern rivals of the same colour face off against each other in two intriguing matches in the Premier League. While Liverpool travel to Old Trafford, Pep Guardiola brings his Manchester City team to Goodison Park to face Ronald Koeman’s Everton. If at the beginning of this season, anyone had said that these two new managers would be facing relatively similar circumstances midway through the season, they would have been termed crazy. But both teams having started the campaign brilliantly, now find themselves at underwhelming positions compared to their rivals, both trying to catch up with the teams in front of them and trying to reach at least their expected positions.
For Everton, this position is anywhere between fifth and sixth. It should not be a very tough task for the Toffees to attain these positions, as they are currently seventh and after their loss to Leicester in the FA Cup, do not have any other commitment than the league. Everton need some wins under the belt to strengthen their claim for a top six spot, if not higher. They would be desperately hoping that this year’s new signings, especially Morgan Schneiderlin – who is now reunited with Koeman, are able to make a huge impact and take them higher. For Everton to stun Manchester City on Sunday, the Toffee’s midfield will have to take charge and hope that Lukaku has brought his scoring boots on.
Meanwhile, Manchester City are trying to overtake at least Liverpool and Arsenal and if possible Chelsea to get into the pole position. Right now they are seven points adrift of the league leaders from London and Pep’s team needs each and every point possible to get past them. Goodison Park is just one of the stops on that journey and has been recently favorable to the Blues from Manchester. Although a bit hamstrung due to absences of a few key players in the midfield, Pep’s team has the firepower upfront to blow any team away on their day. The Spaniard will be hoping that Sunday is their day.
Everton could give a first start to their latest signing Morgan Schneiderlin. He is a good player and shares history with the manager so should be able to contribute meaningfully. His contribution could be especially valuable as Everton will be missing Idriss Gueye, who is on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations. Yannick Bolasie remains sidelined with injury. However, the goal keeper Maarten Stekelenburg and midfielder James McCarthy have been training this week and could start for Everton.
Manchester City cannot yet include their Brazilian signing from the summer – Gabriel Jesus as he is yet to be registered. They are also without Fernandinho, who is serving his four match ban and Fernando, who is still improving from his injury. Leroy Sane is also out due to a knock, as is Vincent Kompany, who is expected to be fit but not to start. Among the positives, Kevin de Bruyne should be fit to start again after being out sick during the week.
- Everton have not won any of the last seven Premier League matches against Manchester City (D3, L4). But before this run, they had won six of the previous eight matches (D1, L1).
- Since Lukaku debuted for Everton in September 2013, only Sergio Aguero (77) and Harry Kane (59) have scored more Premier League goals than the Belgian.
- Leighton Baines’ next assist will be his 50th in the Premier League. He’s currently on 49 assists, five more than any other defender in the competition’s history.
- Manchester City have lost thrice in last seven games, which is the same number of losses they had in 24 games prior to this run.
While Ronald Koeman’s side is blamed for many shortcomings this year, one thing they cannot be blamed for is sharpness at the front. Everton possess one the Premier League’s most prolific strikers (as highlighted by the stat above). The Belgian is tied in third position in terms of number of goals scored this season, with Jermain Defoe and his opposite number from City – Aguero. He has also provided four assists, meaning he has contributed to more than 50% of Toffees’ goals this season thus far. Powerful in the air and sharp with the ball at his feet, he can trouble Manchester City’s defenses all through the game.
If Everton boast a prolific striker, City have in their ranks, Premier League’s most prolific striker from the last three and half seasons. Sergio Aguero has contributed 139 goals for Manchester City in 164 Premier League appearances – scoring 113 of them. This season too, if he has not been serving a ban, he has been banging the goals away, scoring 11 in the process. If Everton want to take any points from the match, it is imperative for their defense to ensure minimal opportunities fall for the Argentine.
Although Goodison Park used to be a difficult trip for Manchester City a few years back, now it has become a fairly easy one. On the top of that, Everton’s choppy form gives Pep’s team a bigger edge over their opponents. Add to that the list of absentees at Everton and City’s chances of grabbing all three points seem that much brighter. That said, the Citizens will have to guard against Lukaku and their error-prone defense, especially Stones, who will be returning to Goodison for the first time after his summer move, will have to put in a watchful performance. However, I feel that between Aguero, Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne, City have the firepower to register one more victory at Goodison.