Everton host Manchester City this weekend in what could be a pivotal match-up for both sides, especially for title-chasing Manchester City where a win could likely see the Premier League crown head to the blue half of Manchester. While Everton are currently enjoying their best season in the Premier League era, and would certainly love to contribute to another twist in this pulsating title race and do themselves a favour by getting 3 points to keep their hopes of that fourth spot alive in the process.
Roberto Martinez has had a brilliant first season with the Merseysiders without a shadow of doubt. He’s been spot on with some of his loan signings, tactically the way they had set up against the big boys in the league, especially at home, is nothing short of phenomenal. Everton sit in fifth place, four points behind fourth placed Arsenal and a win against Manchester City in this fixture will take them closer to achieving the dream that also requires an Arsenal slip-up in the run-in.
With a League Cup in the bag already, Chilean Manuel Pellegrini would be looking to make it two trophies in his maiden season with Manchester City. They are well placed at the moment with a game in hand over Liverpool to be fair and could well win the league title on goal difference for the second time in three seasons – if they manage to win all their remaining games alongside the current league-leaders, which makes this game against Roberto’s men all the more vital for the visiting team.
The previous meeting between the two sides saw Manchester City beat Everton 3-1 at the Etihad ending their three-game winning run then.
Speaking on Thursday morning, Martinez said he was ‘quite confident’ Phil Jagielka can end his 11-match absence when Manuel Pellegrini’s title contenders visit Goodison Park. The Blues boss also revealed that Sylvain Distin is set to return to training on Thursday, though it is still too early to say whether the Frenchman will be available for Saturday’s 5.30pm kick-off. Distin sat out last weekend’s trip to Southampton with the hamstring injury he sustained in the 2-0 victory over Manchester United on the 20th of April. Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Martinez said:
“Sylvain came off with a soft tissue problem against Manchester United. He’ll train today and we will assess him to see how he is. It’s very important that Sylvain finishes the season but it’s difficult to say whether he will be involved at the weekend at this stage”.
Martinez was handed a double-boost with Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar returning to training. Steven Pienaar had been sidelined for the last two months due to a knee-cartilage problem. The Manchester City game will come too soon for the South African but Martinez is hopeful that the winger will be available for selection for Everton’s final game of the campaign at Hull City a week on Sunday. In addition to Pienaar, Darron Gibson and Arouna Kone [both knee], Lacina Traore [hamstring], Bryan Oviedo [broken leg] and Kevin Mirallas [groin] will all miss Saturday’s game. Gareth Barry won’t be able to face his parent club and he will have to choose between veteran Leon Osman and youngster Barkley to replace Barry against the Citizens.
Pellegrini might start the same team against Everton, that claimed an impressive 0-2 win at the Selhurst Park as David Silva, Jesus Navas and Matija Nastasic are all set to miss the game through injury.
- Manchester City make the short trip to Merseyside having suffered defeat just once in their last 11Premier League outings.
- Indeed, Manuel Pellegrini’s side have lost just six top-flight games all season – form which makes them serious title contenders with three matches left to play.
- Five of those six defeats have come on the road however, and City head to Goodison having lost on each of their last four visits.
- In fact, City have won only once in 15 trips to the Blue half of Merseyside, while Everton have triumphed in nine of the last 13 meetings between the two sides home and away.
Romelu Lukaku – Everton
Lukaku, who is on loan from Chelsea, has had a fantastic season thus far. To put it into perspective, he’s been the best striker from Chelsea and he is not actually playing for them. Lukaku has scored 13 goals so far, is top scorer in the team and has been a live wire in most of the games he’s involved in. He’s taken a total of 92 shots, of which 42 were bang on target. He’s managed to convert 7 clear-cut chances (missed 5) and has even managed 6 assists in total – 5 from open play and 1 from a set play. That’s a very good return for a raw 20-year old striker. He quite clearly has the ability to torment any defence in the Premier League and I won’t be surprised if he could inspire his team to a crucial win on the Saturday.
Yaya Toure – Manchester City
What can I say of this towering midfielder that’s not been said already? Quite simply Yaya Toure can improve any side in Europe at the moment. He’s that good. Nominated into the PFA team of the year and rightly so, this man has just raised the bar. With 19 goals and 6 assists to his name, he’s been everything a midfielder could ask for this season. He’s started the most number of games (32) for City which is a testament to his fitness levels. A free kick accuracy of more than 60% and a 100% clear-cut chance conversion percentage (8/8 converted) is just ridiculous even by his standards. A player in a rich vein of form, and if Manchester City are to claim a vital win in this fixture, it is this man they should be counting on.
History might favor Everton in this fixture with Manchester City losing in each of their last four visits to Goodison Park. The Citzens have managed to win only twice in this stadium, in the Premier League era. Everton have had a brilliant home record this season and managed to beat the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal at Goodison and will certainly give it all come Saturday. But I reckon Pellegrini and a rejuvenated Manchester City will narrowly scrape this one through and continue their relentless march to the title.